A Spicy Addition to the Semantic Recipe Search at Yummly

August 27, 2011

11:30 am

Some like it hot – and some don’t. And that’s OK, especially when you’re using the taste-based search engine, Yummly.

Yummly, a semantic search engine for recipes, announced a spicy new addition to its search parameters this week.  They also announced that it’s serving over 2 million unique visitors a month – almost half of the traffic of recipe-giant Epicurious.com.

Cooks can now choose their desired level of spiciness while searching for recipes. Via a sliding scale, users indicate before a search their tolerance for spice – the low end indicates the user’s “hate”, and the high, spice “love”.

Understanding recipes as “more than just text” is Yummly’s goal. Beyond a search for keywords, the technology aims to get to the heart of what the user is looking for, whether an ingredient to be included or eliminated is a dietary restriction or simply a matter of preference.

Yummly’s technology and algorithms generate a profile of each recipe. This profile includes an analysis of the recipe’s ingredients, relevant diets, allergens, nutrition, as well as tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, savory — and now, spicy. Hundreds of thousands of recipes are currently in its database, and users create preferences for the search through a lengthy “menu” of choices along a sliding scale, dialing things up, if you will, to your desired level. Spiciness is measured on the Scoville Scale, which ranks the heat of peppers from sweet bell peppers to through habanero chilies and beyond (U.S. Grade Pepper Spray-hot anyone?).

The site came out of beta in June of 2010, and is led by David Feller, CEO and co-founder.  Feller, a startup veteran through his work at Half.com, then eBay, then StumbleUpon, then, through acquisition, a second-stint at eBay, is now pursuing his passion for cooking and food with Yummly.

Inspiration for the taste-based engine came from a spicy ingredient Feller can do without – mustard. Simply put, he hates it. Through semantic search, the team’s objective is to make peoples’ lives easier by helping them find the best recipes to match their tastes.

With the announcement of over 2 million unique visitors a month, Yummly is quickly becoming one of the major starting point for recipe search. According to Feller, “It’s a testament to the product and technology we’ve built. The food space is ripe for innovation, and we’re delivering what consumers have been asking for. No longer is it good enough to rely on keyword search – you need to know that ‘vegetarian’ means no meat.”

Rounding out Yummy’s taste-based search offering is a robust blog (check out the posts Most Outrageous Fair Foods in America and 8 Foods You May Get Arrested for Eating), and the ability to share recipes with your social network. Yet how does the site, that throws around the lines “every recipe in the world” and “The greatest thing since sliced bread” stack up to the competition?

Yummly appears to have that differentiator from other popular recipe sites, such as Google Recipes. In comparison to Google, Yummly’s preference settings, including type of cuisine and a break down of allergies into 10 categories, is superior. Apps like Meal Snap, which make it easy to track food and record what food was present by taking a picture of it, can be tricky if you’re trying to deconstruct a recipe to avoid a particular ingredient. You certainly couldn’t snap a photo of a spice level or truly determine if a food is free of gluten.  Food on the Table provides a nice way to search for sales and build meal plans for the family based on a drill-down menu of preferences.  Those that consider themselves foodies may be more inclined towards the recipes at Yummly, however.

Spiciness is the Yummly team’s first expansion of the search parameters. This self-described team of “foodies on a mission to invent a better way to find recipes”  is headquartered in Silicon Valley and is backed by First Round Capital, Harrison Metal Capital, Intel Capital, and angel investors.

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Marla Shaivitz is a writer, developer and digital marketer. She's interested in innovations & innovators in technology and those working toward social good. Follow Marla on Twitter at @marlashaivitz.

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