Can Food Apps Change the Way You Eat?

Food apps aim to educate consumers

If you own an iPhone, Android, or any other smartphone, you know how popular food apps are. Now, AdAge takes a deeper look into food apps and how they affect consumer choices. The answer? They will make you eat healthier.

In 2011, 17 million smartphone users looked up health-related content on their phones, up nearly 125 pecent from 2010, reports Kunar Patel of AdAge. And of all the smartphone users in the country, almost 45 percent have some sort of health-related app downloaded. Another ComScore MobiLens report showed that while food shopping, 58 percent of smartphone users used their phone and one in five shoppers used it to scan barcodes.

And they do affect what you buy at the store. One food app, Fooducate, surveyed its own users and found that a staggering 80 percent chose a healthier food after using the app to search nutritional information; in the same study, it found that 50 percent of users tried a product for the first time after using the app. Food apps are constantly evolving to make food shopping easier — today, Allrecipes announced the newest feature on its Dinner Spinner: a barcode scanner.

Why the jump in food apps? No doubt about it — it's the convenience of information at your fingertips. Said Lynne Robertson, president-CEO of TBWA's retail agency Fame to AdAge, "There are 60,000 items in an average grocery store, and it takes a lot of time to compare nutrition panels... shoppers are being bombarded with a lot of information." While the market for health-related food apps grows, it's not a perfect catch-all. Apps like Fooducate often have unsavory advertisers, i.e. General Mills' Trix yogurt, which was being advertised as "all-natural." (The brand has since changed the yogurt to be free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup.) Therefore, app makers have to think about editorial integrity when rating products — giving consumers true information while balancing the need for advertisers.

Plus, as Dodai Stewart points out on Jezebel, it may not be as simple as "there's an app for that" when it comes to healthy eating. She writes, "Money and convenience are part of the equation when it comes to food, and I certainly try to get in and out of the store quickly, grabbing what's cheap and easy. These apps can be an asset, for sure, but lack of information isn't really the problem when it comes to eating unhealthy stuff. It's way more complicated."