Last week, Amazon launched a new personalized meal recommendation feature for Alexa called ‘What to Eat?’. The new capability, which was part of a slate of new features for Alexa first teased at the end of September, gives users recommendations for restaurants, recipes, prepared items, and more based on their preferences.
What to Eat is an expansion of the personalized food recommendation capabilities of Alexa that the company began rolling out earlier this year with the ‘What’s for Dinner’ feature. Where What’s for Dinner offers personalized recipe ideas based on past purchase behavior, What to Eat goes a step further by recommending options based on a user’s dietary preferences and restrictions shared with Alexa.
Once a user asks, “Alexa, what should I eat?” the voice assistant will share recommendations for restaurants, recipes, prepared food, and meal kits. Users can share their preferences and restrictions by telling Alexa to “open my food preferences.” From there, they can choose a primary diet profile from many choices that include vegetarian, paleo, keto, kosher and more. They can also add various dietary preferences such as low-salt, gluten-free, low-carb, egg-free, and more.
I tried out What to Eat on my Echo Show. After asking Alexa, a screen popped up with a Blue Apron meal recommendation at the top and then buttons for restaurants, recipes, and prepared food recommendations.
Once I clicked a level down from each topline option, I got more choices from Alexa. For example, under recipes, I chose a shoppable recipe from Amazon partner SideChef. Once there, I had my choice of step-by-step instructions for the recipe, adding ingredients to a shopping list or directly to my Amazon Fresh cart.
When choosing restaurants, a ‘nearby restaurants’ screen popped up with three options less than a mile from my home. From there, I could filter by delivery, pickup, reservations, or open now.
When I clicked on prepared foods, a screen popped up with Whole Foods chicken tortilla soup as the featured item, as well as the option to filter by Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods, or food type (salad, soup, vegan, etc.).
This evolution of Alexa’s meal personalization capabilities gives Amazon monetization opportunities through a user filling up their e-commerce basket with ingredients via a shoppable recipe, selling prepared foods from Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods, or by gathering a spiff for a restaurant recommendation. While not all of these opportunities are created equal – Amazon obviously gets a bigger share of the spend when customers add a recipe to their Amazon Fresh basket as compared to when a user eats out at a local restaurant – What to Eat entrenches Amazon deeper into the decision-making process of the consumer.
It also shows the uneven playing field for Amazon’s kitchen commerce efforts compared to other voice assistant players. After helping to create the category in 2015, Amazon continues to be the runaway leader in the US smart speaker market share, logging 69% of all installed speakers as of mid-2021. A good chunk of those smart assistants resides in the kitchen where users often will ask for recommendations, add things to a shopping list, and more. All that activity enables Amazon to profile us and, now, make money at every step in the meal journey.
The head of Alexa’s kitchen team, Mara Segal, talks about the new feature and how it allows Amazon to touch the meal journey from end to end in her interview for Amazon Devices’ blog:
“Customers consume roughly 20 meals for the week,” Segal said. “Finding a recipe, getting groceries, picking restaurants, and cooking a meal—it all takes time. We think customers will be excited to break out of their routines and get quick, personalized assistance. With What to Eat and our suite of Alexa Kitchen features, we can make the food journey easier end-to-end—getting that great idea, saving favorites from different food and recipe providers in one place, adding ingredients to the Alexa shopping list or cart, and cooking meal kits or recipes hands-free with Alexa’s assistance.”