Give me feedback on an app idea for a school project

It’d really help me out if you guys could give me some feedback on a school project I’m working on. I’m a 4th year computer science student.

The idea is to have an app that you can pull out while grocery shopping, scan a barcode and see a list of recipes that use that product along with pictures and nutritional information.

Would you use this? Why or why not?

My experience with shopping-related apps is that they all slow down my shopping process.

Unless you can get me in and out of the store more quickly than I could on my own, your app is not going to be used after the novelty wears off.

I vaguely remember seeing a pinterest pin that advertised a website that you could put in the random food bits you have in your house and it spits out a recipe you can make from it. If this exists your app sounds a lot like that.

That being said, I think it sounds good in theory, but not in practice. If I am in a grocery store looking at a product, I haven’t purchased it yet. If I haven’t purchased it yet then I don’t already “need” it, and therefore wouldn’t want to create a reason for me to buy it. Even if something is on sale (hey look! Cumin is 50 cents!) I’m not about to go out of my way to buy it if I don’t already know what it does.

Or you need it, and that’s why you’re at the store looking at it. :wink:

I would not use the app. I rarely use any app. Aside from that, it’s not the way I shop. I decide what I’m going to make, and then go get it. If I hear about an unfamiliar product and it sounds like something I might make, I’ll find a recipe first.

And that said, there’s been a time or two when I’d see something at the store and wondered how to use it. The recipe app would be handy (I don’t care about the nutritional information), but it would be used so rarely that I can just look up recipes when I get home.

Is your goal to produce a working app for a class project or to develop a believable new product?

I could see how it would be easy (…like I know :rolleyes:) to identify the product and then google recipes that use that ingredient. I think all the online pieces exist such that it could be presented very nicely with most of your work being a good GUI.

I would NOT use it. Suppose I look into my junk electrical parts box and pick up a resistor. Then I Google all the ways to use a resistor… Get the problem? If this has to be a commercially viable app I don’t think it would be helpful to anyone.

The only app I want is one that correlates floor plan to inventory so I can type in macadamia nuts and be directed to the exact aisle where that product is.

I wouldn’t use, but maybe some people would. I don’t go looking for recipes to match the ingredients, I do it the other way round. But there could be many more people who like the idea. They see some appealing fruit, or cut of meat and want to know what they could make with it. Unfortunately those main ingredients are the least likely to be properly identified by a barcode.

That I could use!

The project sounds fine.

This seems like a much more useful arrangement. At least in our house, we don’t go shopping for things then figure out what to make with them. We figure out what to make, then buy those things.

We’d only need to know what a product is useful for if we had some of it sitting at home left over.

I would pay real cash money for this. In fact, if a supermarket chain offered this I’d never go anywhere else again.

we’re examining if it would be feasible to do this, possibly via access to information about where products are supposed to be stocked on the shelves/aisles. May not be as good as a floor plan, but could at least say something like “look on the 3rd shelf at the back end of aisle 2” or something.

Does anyone know if major grocers keep electronic records of where each product is to be stocked?

They probably do, but I’d doubt they’d ever give a third party access to those. There’s an entire field of grocery store psychology that is predicated on the axiom “Make them walk through as much of the store as possible as often as possible” and there’s no way they’re going to give up a chunk of their impulse sales just so that I can find the goddamn macadamia nuts.

I think that as far as a school project goes, your idea is fine but I do not see it as being something I would use. As with the other posters, by the time I’m in the grocery store, I like to be done composing my list. I see that Amazon prime now offers Dash buttons that you can buy that will order a new whatever when you press it. Perhaps something like that where I could go around my house and zap the barcodes of all the sundries I’m running low on and then make an order on Amazon or to be delivered to me.

Yes they do. Very detailed plans designed to maximize sales. Each planogram is given to the store and they fulfill it. So with every bar code they know exactly what aisle, shelf, and position on the shelf the item is.

Some shops are willing to expose this to the public, if you search for an item on Home Depot’s site and provide your local store they’ll tell you what aisle, bay, and shelf an item is on. I think Lowes does too, but these stores are intended to get you what you need and cross-sell a bit, but not really drive impulse buys like the typical grocery store is.


How do you select the list of recipes for an ingredient? You can’t present every single possible recipe, that would be a uselessly huge list. Particularly for a simple ingredient like flour (Have a look through these hundred thousand recipes! Isn’t this useful?)

So you’ll have to come up with a carefully curated list. Enough to provide some options and variety, but not so much as to be impossible to scroll through while standing in the aisle. You’ll also have to consider differing cooking abilities and tools, different tastes, etc.

Even if you do that well, a lot of people won’t like your selection of recipes because They’re Not Like Mom Made.

That’s true, not everyone likes all recipes. When a user scans a barcode and the number of recipes returned is above a certain quantity, categories will be presented based on similar characteristics. Specifics have to be worked out, but it might be something like the way in which the ingredient is used (for example whether you’re frying a potato, baking it, mashing it, putting it in a stew or soup or whatever else you could do). For flour you’d probably get bread, pastries, pies, cakes, etc. We don’t want to make it difficult to find recipes or to present users with too many recipes they won’t like. Hopefully, once they select a category, recipes they aren’t interested in will be removed. We aren’t trying to dictate what a user should eat, only enabling them to cook for themselves meals they wouldn’t otherwise be able to make.

Certainly, if someone was committed to learning new recipes they could look one up, make a shopping list, go to the store, buy those items and return home to cook. We felt that a lot of people aren’t going to come up with this idea at such a convenient time. If you decide you want to try something new right before you begin cooking, you mightn’t have all the necessary ingredients, especially if you are inexperienced with cooking and do not purchase groceries you don’t plan to use. At the grocery store itself, you only access to this information is through a phone, not a cookbook or the internet. This makes the process slow and unappealing. Most shoppers want to buy what they need and leave, and our research seems to support this. People don’t buy groceries they don’t know how to cook, and many people buy ingredients in order to prepare a small set of known meals.

We think enabling someone to quickly see what to do with an ingredient may enable them to find new ways to use ingredients they already buy at the moment they are shopping. It requires the least preparation and investment from the user.

Plans include allowing users to select their favourite new meals before they even go to the store to have a shopping list and optimal path through the store generated before they arrive.

I’m glad someone pointed out that groceries are unlikely to supply the stocking information to us due to their desire to have impulse buying. Because the goal of our app is to enable our users to purchase and use ingredients they wouldn’t otherwise buy, I think we may be able to convince grocers to go around this. An app that only tells you how to use products you already own already exists (users enter all the items in their fridge/pantry and get a list of recipes they can make WITHOUT going to the store).

An example of a scenario in which this app might be useful:

While grocery shopping, a user sees that salmon is on sale 50% off for one day only. Suppose this user has never cooked salmon in their life but has had it at restaurants one or two times. They can pull out their phone, scan the barcode and quickly see a list of recipes with nice high quality pictures showing the finished meal. Like ordering a meal at a restaurant, they can see what they will get before they purchase, and are more likely to feel confident buying the item. Without this app, it is plausible to assume the user would not purchase the salmon.

It will vary from location to location even within the same chain. Grocers use different store layouts. Moreover, they stock different things depending on the store - one location of a chain I shop at has a huge Hispanic foods section and a huge Asian foods section - six miles the other direction the neighborhood is less diverse and its Old El Paso and Annie Chungs.

By the way, I wouldn’t use the app. I seldom use a recipe when I cook and if pork butt is on sale, I know off the top of my head half a dozen different ways to use it.

Now, I did want this for alcoholic beverages recently. I do use drink recipes.

Along similar lines although more pie-in-the-sky, I’d like an app that could scan a barcode at the liquor store and give me some indication of the quality so when I’m shopping for presents and I know my uncle is a fan of scotch, say, I can find a scotch that’s within my budget that a connoisseur wouldn’t turn their nose up at.

Although both are use cases are handled - I was looking for a recipe for a French 75 - but I couldn’t remember the name of the cocktail. Google search on Gin and Champagne and I have it - no need to open a new app or load my phone with one. Likewise, there are tons of sites that will give you recommendations for “what is a good scotch in the $45 range.” Search makes the app unnecessary.