A quick internet search is replacing mom’s recipe box as America’s go-to method for finding tonight’s dinner inspiration.
Home meals are increasingly prepared on the fly by people leading busy, often hectic lives who are looking for shortcuts to putting food on the table without breaking the budget. A new Minnesota tech startup, Basketful, is trying to simplify the dinner-making process by putting all the ingredients needed for a recipe found online into a digital shopping basket with a click of a button.
Basketful is one of many new companies aiming to remove steps, and hopefully stress, for consumers in areas such as online grocery shopping and takeout or meal-kit delivery services.
Like many e-commerce companies, Basketful’s success depends on getting recipe-based websites to sign up for its services and then getting consumers to use its “get ingredients” feature. Research shows people are eager to experiment with different online grocery shopping platforms, but are not necessarily committed to one particular system. Their behavior is varied and unstructured.
The company, co-founded by Jim Lesch and Eugene Burd, landed its first two major clients earlier this summer: Conagra’s “Ready Set Eat” recipe site and General Mills’ Tablespoon.com recipe site.
Basketful collects a flat fee from the companies for installing the add-to-cart button and collects additional fees when shoppers use the function.
Lesch and Burd got the idea for Basketful while working at General Mills. They knew they needed to move quickly if they were to beat others to the punch. Basketful now has two major competitors, Whisk and Chicory. General Mills is currently testing all three of these add-to-cart solution platforms on its three largest recipe sites, BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com and Tablespoon.com.
The company is the product of Minnesota’s strong food industry and an example of how big companies can spawn small companies, said Peter Frosch, vice president of strategic partnerships at Greater MSP.
“When you have talented people working in a corporate environment and have visibility to what’s going on in the food system, they are in a unique position to see opportunity,” Frosch said. “When they go out on their own, they are surrounded by the capabilities to be successful.”
Food brands hope the shortcut means their products end up in diners’ shopping carts, though Basketful gives them the option to swap out the Progresso chicken broth for another label — or forgo the chicken broth altogether.
“If you find a recipe for Bundt cake you like on Pinterest, do you note that it had Land O’Lakes butter listed as an ingredient? Most people don’t,” Lesch said. “However, if you can add that item directly into the cart, you can ensure it has the right butter.”
It also gives consumer packaged goods companies more specific data about consumers than was previously possible, Lesch argues.
The majority of U.S. consumers decide what to make for dinner between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. that day, said Susan Schwallie, executive director of client development for NPD Group, a market research firm.
Basketful hopes to help those last-minute chefs by sending their shopping list to a nearby grocery retailer that offers delivery, like Walmart or Cub Foods via Instacart, and have the ingredients arrive at home in time to make dinner.
Basketful offers a variety of other services to help food publishers create “shoppable content,” such as how-to videos, digital ads and digital newsletters. But the add-to-cart feature is its signature service.
Nielsen estimates U.S. consumers will spend $100 billion on online groceries by 2022, but the market is still relatively immature. Just 1.5 percent of all U.S. grocery sales last year were made online, compared to nearly 8 percent in the U.K. and Japan and nearly 20 percent in South Korea.
Researchers said the grocery category is growing in the online space, but at a slower rate than web sales for other product categories. Consumers still like to comparison shop, touch and feel their fresh foods and stroll the aisles for items they might be forgetting, Schwallie said.
And while she said grocery e-commerce is here to stay, consumers are still figuring out how they want to use it. The future is likely a combination of online and brick-and-mortar shopping — something the industry calls “omnichannel,” or blended, retail.
“E-commerce is constantly morphing and changing. Consumers are looking for a new, more efficient way to get their meals,” Schwallie said. “It’s really about providing solutions for them.”
That’s where the opportunity lies for companies like Basketful. Anyone who can shorten the “path to consumption” — what to make, where to buy it, how to make it and how to clean it up — will win, Schwallie said.