Twitter users complain about not having enough hours in a day. Twitter users say weekends should be longer. Sound familiar? You bet.

Many things compete for our time, with more and more people wishing they had more time to get things done and be with friends and loved ones. A survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal on more than 6,000 adults from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, found that individuals who usually spent money on saving time reported greater life satisfaction than those who did not.

Notably, the benefits of buying time were consistent across the income spectrum.” (link in appendix). 

Here’s where we come in. We created Zesty- an app that puts more time in your hands by reducing the amount of time spent planning meals, grocery shopping and cooking. More than that though, Zesty optimizes the entire experience in terms of ease, cost, and satisfaction...but that’s not all. While most meal planning apps on the market merely seek to enhance the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking experience, Zesty aims to go above and beyond that to reinvent it by infusing a healthy dose of comedy and entertainment in the entire experience. 

Research & Analysis

One of the most interesting observations from our target customer survey was that the majority of respondents said they looked to blogs for food ideas and inspiration. Blogs are synonymous with storytelling and provides an intimate feel as bloggers seek to give readers a glimpse into their personal lives. From our research, we deduced that for most people, they would rather draw food inspiration from people they feel a personal connection with or whom they consider an authority on food related topics.

Forms response chart. Question title: Where do you go for food inspiration? Please specify if you choose "Other". (You can select more than one answer). Number of responses: 54 responses.

We ran a SWOT analysis on several competitors and these are our most noteworthy observations :

Strengths -

  • Find recipes based on what you already have at home.
  • Recipes are nutritionist approved

Weaknesses -

  • Must subscribe to get free trial

Opportunities -

  • A note-to-self feature on each recipe
  • Version for ipad (as well as mobile). App should also be compatible with iWatch so that users can take their grocery lists wherever they go, and not have to whip out their phones or tablets while shopping.

Threats -

  • Free in-app purchase with an existing large customer base
  • One of the top apps for meal planning available

From the above analysis, we were able to fill gaps in our user stories/features for future iterations of Zesty, as well as what pitfalls to avoid falling into.

After our first iteration, user testing was conducted on our low-fidelity mockups, and the feedback incorporated into the subsequent design and development processes. After our second iteration, our high-fidelity prototypes were user tested and users’ concerns were duly taken into account and addressed by our designer and software developers. For example, one user suggested that on the hamburger menu, the Preferences button be directly under the Home button because logically, users would set preferences first before doing anything else such as searching for recipes or adding ingredients to their grocery list. Another user thought it would be better for us to include a Help button on the hamburger menu to aid users who want to learn more about how to use the app. We incorporated both users’ suggestions into our latest iteration.

We also conducted user interviews and one important finding was that one of the top two reasons people cook their meals at home is the cost saving benefits (i.e. saving money that would otherwise be spent on eating out or ordering in). For this reason, we have decided to offer Zesty as a free subscription, which will not require any commitment whatsoever (such as users having to sign up or give us their email addresses). However certain features will be restricted to monthly/yearly paid plans. The paid plans will be highly affordable.

User Pain Points

There are many individuals who have concerns about food ingredients triggering their allergies or other adverse reactions. Others are not sure whether their meals are healthy enough. For some, the problem is not being able to get enough variety for the kinds of meals they want. Yet others need to know that they can pop in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes tops. There’s that crowd that wants cooking to feel more relaxing or more like an adventure than a chore. Some folks need a 'foodie support group' where they can ask different kinds of questions and get answers from others who share a passion for cooking. Some individuals need help managing their fridge/pantry so they can use up ingredients before they lose freshness or go bad. Some live in multiple person households where deciding what to eat can be difficult since everyone wants a different option sometimes. Some individuals want to know that they can whip up delicious meals on a budget. One thing all these groups probably have in common is a desire to have more fun in the kitchen, hence our plan to incorporate comedy/entertainment into the experience, in addition to several other solutions. Since happiness is indeed a universal language, Zesty aims to differentiate itself by making the kitchen a happier place.


For our user research, we largely targeted millennial working women because this demographic in particular, tend to make their own meals and thus would benefit from an app that facilitates this process and helps them save time despite their busy lives. During our preliminary user research for this app, we discovered that many users had mixed feelings towards meal planning/cooking. They felt intimidated at the prospects of planning, shopping for and cooking the meal. However, they saw the experience as potentially fun and creative particularly if they had extra time on their hands. Thus, we realized that people didn’t necessarily hate the process of cooking and meal planning in and of itself but rather, the time consumed and the logistics involved. With respect to major influences when deciding what to cook, the overwhelming majority of respondents cited health as one of their major concerns as well as the availability of ingredients for a meal of interest. Finally, in terms of go-to tools for planning meals, one user said she uses Pinterest (for meal images and ideas), Youtube (for cooking lessons) and Google Keep (for monitoring ingredients in one’s home pantry so they don’t go bad). She went on to mention that she would largely benefit from an app that did the work of all three previously mentioned tools so that she wouldn’t have to use different apps just to be able to eat.

Landing on a Solution

In response to the above listed customer pain points, our team came up with a host of carefully thought out solutions, some to be included in our MVP and the rest assigned to future iterations. Currently, Zesty tackles pain points such as allergies and other triggers, as well as difficulty finding several healthy recipes in one place. The app comes with a preference feature that lets users adjust their settings so that meals are generated based on the user's preferred serving size, prep time and allergies/dietary restrictions.  Other benefits the app offers include access to a wide variety of healthy recipes along with cooking instructions, cook time, ingredients, possible allergy triggers in that particular meal, etc. Users will also be able to create meal lists and email those lists, recipes and directions to themselves. In the next section, we discuss next steps to be taken towards fixing other user pain points.


Product Manager Learnings:

Oghenero Afiari

Designer Learnings:

Wendy G.

Developer Learnings:

Blake D.

Developers Learnings:

Rebekah D.


Full Team Learning

In response to users whose pain points mainly revolved around fears of losing too much time to cooking and the stress involved, we created recipe category options such as “30 minute meals” and “simple yet tasty meals”, with an aim to continually expand these categories with more meal options.

For our health conscious users, we’ve tailored the interface aesthetic to signal healthy eating and to subtly remind users that healthy is the way to go. Additionally, Zesty will offer users specialized meal recipe categories targeted at fulfilling users’ health needs.

Examples of such categories are 'low calorie meals', 'vegetarian meals', 'animal protein meals', 'low fat meals', 'zero sugar desserts', etc. To better tackle the pain point of feeling restricted in meal options when certain ingredients are not available, we decided that it would be highly beneficial to users if we could let them input single or multiple ingredients, after which the app would generate different meals which include all listed ingredients. We also intend to create a feature that lets users possibly find alternatives at home, to missing ingredients (think of it as improv but in the kitchen).

For users whose pain point is having to use different apps/tools for the meal planning/grocery/pantry management/cooking tutorials, we plan to craft the app in such a way that it would be a multi-purpose app. In other words, Zesty will serve as a one-stop shop app that offers users the visual benefits of Pinterest, the cooking tutorial features of Youtube and the fridge tracking functionalities of Google. As stated earlier, our research showed that people prefer to seek inspiration from bloggers i.e. people they already know and like.

Therefore, as part of our future publicity efforts, we will be partnering with well known food bloggers in some capacity. For those who live in multiple person households and find it hard to decide what to eat because each individual wants a different option, Zesty will have a fun spin the wheel feature where the app spins the wheel and whatever it lands on will be the meal of the day! Of course, this feature will factor in every person’s allergies and triggers if any.

Other features which will be available in future iterations are: reminders to check freshness of ingredients, meal prep or grocery shop, fun food related podcasts, a compilation of relaxing music to get you through the meal prep/cooking process, humorous text and gifs infused throughout the app, and a social hub where foodies can review meals that others cook, post food pics, share foodie knowledge, etc.

More importantly of course, our users will be a huge part of deciding which features will be added to Zesty!

To be a part of this wonderful experience, please take a look at our web app here and email us your feedback at !