The Facebook of Food? Foodily Makes Meal Planning Social

2/2/11Follow @wroush

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chitchat with you about the menu on the event page. Finally, here’s the feature that truly makes Foodily social, even after the Super Bowl: Every search you do on Foodily will highlight recipes favorited by your friends as the top results.

Cutright says a 2010 survey by AllRecipes.com highlighted the need for such features. Asked whether they pay attention to the user ratings on Web-published recipes, 100 percent of AllRecipes’ users said yes. But 80 percent said they’d actually prefer to choose recipes by asking their friends. “It’s a level of knowledge and context and comprehension that helps people make a real decision,” says Cutright. “And on top of that, it helps them to have a conversation. If you are coming to my Super Bowl party and I see that you like chili, I am going to make that for you.”

You won’t see ads on Foodily anytime soon. The startup, which has 12 employees and got seed funding from TellMe veteran and current Flipboard CEO Mike McCue before bringing in the Index investment last summer, plans to make money by working with food distributors to pair search results with coupons. “The money in recipes isn’t in ads, it’s in food,” says Cutright, who held a variety of senior marketing positions at Yahoo from 1999 to 2007. In fact, foods purchased using online coupons added up to $56 billion in the U.S. in 2009, she says. She said Foodily’s crawling and indexing algorithms are especially good at understanding the ingredients in Web recipes, which means the startup is “uniquely suited to match coupons to recipes…no one else has our technology to be able to do that.”

In an interview with Cutright last week, I suggested that Foodily was trying to be “the Facebook of food.” She replied that having Facebook’s reach would certainly be nice, but she came back with a different comparison. “Foodily is to food like Qwiki is to information,” Cutright said, referring to the hot San Francisco-based startup that automatically assembles Web reference material on millions of subjects into narrated multimedia summaries. By presenting recipes side by side, in a horizontally scrolling format that feels reminiscent of flipping through a cookbook or a food magazine, Foodily is trying to “bring back the joy of browsing,” Cutright says. The combination of commercial and food-blog content also sets the site apart—as do the new social features. Says the CEO, “It’s a level of engagement that doesn’t exist around food online.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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