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Consumers Gain, Vendors Lose in Tech Applications

More than 1.5 billion Americans visited food web sites this year. It’s a tremendous number, with huge implications for the food industry. The statistic, from a poll conducted by our friends at, notes that these consumers went through 11 billion pages of food-focused content — everything from recipes to discussion boards to coupon offers.

While that’s an impressive (even intimidating) number, the real hook for retailers comes from another stat. The survey found that 43% of home cooks with smart phones “used the device while grocery shopping to look up recipes, create grocery lists, conduct price comparisons and look up coupons.” We’ve reported on retailers that have implemented pretty extensive online coupon programs to take advantage of this trend.

To get a glimpse of the extent of consumer use, Allrecipes determined that page views of its site from a mobile device increased five times the rate of other devices — desktop, laptop and the like — in the past 16 months. In November alone, Allrecipes,com received more than 1 million visits from mobile devices. That’s a lot of people on the move, who still need and want access to information and offers.

Against this rose-pixeled picture, however, we have another report indicating that the industry itself has lagged in applying many consumer-friendly concepts to B-to-B applications, frustrating clients and trade customers. Technomic Inc., which tracks foodservice and restaurants, found wide-ranging complaints within the industry centered on the lack of specific product information, organization and assistance on a majority of vendor websites.

“The bottom line is that people are pressed for time and want a manufacturer’s website to make their job easier – and if it doesn’t, they are less likely to visit again," said Melissa Wilson, a principal of the firm. “Given the cost associated with building a site, it’s essential that suppliers really understand how they can meet their customers’ needs to get the best return on their website investment.”

In one area of universal interest to everyone who eats, the Technomic survey found that inadequate product information was one of the top pet peeves.

"Suppliers can make life difficult if they don't provide complete nutritional information, ingredients, cooking instructions and other important product details," said one despondent respondent. Those same words could have come from Joe Shopper, in aisle 6, looking for low-fat mayo.

Remember manufacturers, distributors, private-label vendors and food brokers: Retailers are consumers, too.