Actionable Tips for Success In The iOS Food & Drink App Category

If you have or are launching an app in the Food and Drink category on the Apple App Store, this is a must read post.

If you have an app that is, or is going to be, in the Food & Drink Category, this post is for you. We are going to analyze this category and give you some tips on how to research an app idea or improve an existing app. This is a follow up to our Developer's Guide To App Store Categories, where we went over the general principles of which category to list your app in (if you have a choice), and how to get the complete category descriptions, without being logged into iTunes Connect.

But now we want to get into specifics in individual categories. We will start by defining the Food & Drink category according to Apple's guidelines and give you their examples of apps that would fall into this category. Then we will take a look at what the top apps are doing and where there may be underexploited opportunities, so you can model what is working, as well as uncover some low hanging fruit.

Category Definition

Apps that provide recommendations, instruction, or critique related to the preparation, consumption, or review of food or beverages.


Recipe collections, cooking guides, restaurant reviews, celebrity chefs/recipes, dietary & food allergy, alcohol reviews, brewery guides, international cuisine

What The Top 25 Apps Are Doing

Start by modeling the most successful apps. The easiest way to see what top apps are doing is to take a look at our App Leaderboard for this category. If you are not familiar with our Leaderboard, read this post for a complete description. The short story is that it is a ranking that is based on our proprietary Estimated App Worth algorithm, which takes into account much more information than just downloads and ratings.

Note: Since this post was first published, we have deprecated the Estimate App Worth feature in favor of our Store Intelligence product.

Since are going to take a top-down approach to this analysis, so let's start with the top 25 apps in this category. Here is a current snapshot of the Leaderboard:

lt="snapshot of app leaderboard

General Observations

Let's start by classifying the types of apps that are on this list. Taking inventory like this can help you to see what users are looking for. This doesn't mean that you cannot create an app that is much different from these types of apps, but finding out what is already working and molding your vision for your app around one of those ideas, will give you a better shot at success.

These apps fall into the following general subcategories:

  • Recipes

  • Ordering/Shopping

  • Rating/Discovery

  • Rewards

  • Reservations

For each app, we can click on the listing and see the Profile Page for the app. This is what the top of the Domino's Pizza USA page looks like:

lt="Domino's app page example

You will also be able to see things like:

  • Review breakdown by day

  • Reviews

  • Screenshots

  • Description

  • Related apps

  • More apps by publisher

  • And more…

From there, let's look at what keywords Domino's Pizza is using for their app. If you are not a Sensor Tower subscriber, don't worry, you can check out their keywords for free. Just go to our homepage and enter the name of the app you want to check out into the box. Here are the keywords that Domino's Pizza is using:

lt="Example keywords from app

Some interesting choices here. This one tip alone can help you find keywords that would never had thought of.

Remember to go beyond the top 25 apps, the deeper you dig, the more you might uncover. Now that we have some general observations about the category and where to get some preliminary information about each app, let's get into how to identify opportunities.

Identifying Opportunities

How can you use this information and apply it to your app to increase your downloads? Here is how to identify functional and keyword opportunities in this category.

Example Case Study

Before we move on, let's establish an example of an app idea that you could be working on, to put our analysis into perspective. Let's say that you love to cook and have an idea for an app that allows users to submit and rate recipes. You want to do some market research to see what you could do to make your app a success.

Everyone tells you that it will never work because there is probably already an app out there for that. While it is true that there are most likely similar apps, it doesn't mean that you cannot create a successful app. If you figure out a way to do something better or cater to a niche market, there can be room in the market for you. Although this example will feature an app that does not exist yet, the same research process can be used to improve a published app.

Functional Analysis

There are so many directions that you can go with your app, in terms of functionality. But now that you know which apps are successful, you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Think about how you can put your own unique twist on one of the existing apps. Can you create an app that will cater to a smaller niche audience? Can you improve some of the things that these apps are not doing well?

Since the example that we are using is a recipe app, you will be looking at these apps in the top 25:

As you examine these apps, pay attention to the written reviews to see if you can identify features that users would want and what is already working for those apps.

For example, here is a comment from the Jamie Oilver's Recipes app:

lt="recipe app reviews

Therefore, you may want to make sure that there are very specific step-by-step instructions and include a shopping list feature in your app. Of course, do not just rely on just one comment. But if there are numerous comments voicing the same opinions (good or bad), you definitely want to listen.

As you look at recipe apps on our Leaderboard, you might start to envision an app that will specialize in Thai food. It happens to be your favorite type of food to cook and you love to visit Thailand. So you use our search function to find other Thai recipe apps out there.

lt="Jamie Oliver on leaderboard

Here are the top results that we found:

As you examine the Profile Pages for these apps, you notice that none of these apps are very well designed and all of them do not have very many reviews. Furthermore, none of them allow users to upload pictures or instructions.

This could be good and bad. Good because you would not have much competition. Bad because none of these apps that focus on Thai food seems to be very successful. Since we want to give your app the best shot of success, we won't go too far of the beaten path.

But what about recipe apps that allow users to upload content?

There are a few out there, but this one looks pretty good: My Recipe Book - Your recipes, finally organized. It has a great overall rating and an international user base.


If you look at the screenshots on the Profile Page, you also see that it has a shopping list feature, which users seem to love:

lt="shopping list feature in app

So focusing on an app that allows users to organize and upload recipes might be a better way to go instead of focusing on one particular type of cuisine. Note all of the functions that you want and don't want in your app. Then figure out how you will go about developing or improving your app, based on this information.

Keyword Analysis

After you have completed researching the functions of your app, let's get take a look at some of the keywords that you can add to your app so you get organic App Store search traffic. To learn how to choose the best keywords for your app, read our 3 step process for selecting keywords.

By using a combination of our Keyword Spy Tool, Keyword Research Tool and Intelligent Suggestions Tool, here are some keywords that we have identified as good keywords to possibly include in the recipe app, in our example:

lt="keywords to include in recipe app

This list is sorted by iPhone Difficulty, or how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword on the iPhone. If any of these keywords are applicable to your app, they are lower competition and worth testing.

Remember that our 3 step keyword selection process prioritizes: Keyword relevance first, then difficulty, and finally traffic. Difficulty and Traffic are on a 0-10 scale, with 10 being the most traffic or most difficult to rank for. Be sure to read that post for more details.

Spying on the keywords of top apps, like we did at the beginning of this post, is a great way to get keywords, but remember to track your keyword rankings because these top apps already have a lot of downloads and can complete for higher difficulty keywords. This is what it looks like when we track the best keywords for My Recipe Book:

lt="spy on keywords


The intention of this category analysis is not to give you exact answers, but to give you the knowledge required to break down this category and how to look for opportunities. This post is only meant to be a starting point because your actual download results will depend on a variety of factors such as: how many times your app has already been downloaded, the niche you are targeting within this category, the quality of your app, your external marketing, etc. You need to monitor your results regularly to fine tune your app because the marketplace is not static and what is working right now, might change tomorrow.

If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: October 2013

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