Improving Ingredient Search With Data

Posted on March 19, 2014 by

One of the things I love about ReciPal is that it is cloud-based. Instead of traditional nutrition label software where everyone downloads their own copy of the software, our data is stored in the cloud.

Harnessing the Cloud

That's better for security, accessibility, and backups, but probably most importantly it allows us to leverage the experience of all our users. For example, when you create a new public ingredient, other users can use it in their recipes instead of having to add it to their database as well. When you find a good ingredient and add it to your recipe, we can learn from that for the next person.

What Needed Fixing

For a while our search results were fairly primitive and only based on the name of an ingredient and how it matched your search term. That would sometimes result in lower quality results showing up first as you can see in the image below. The warning sign is our key for an unverified ingredient.


Search results: before

BEFORE: unverified ingredients showing up first. Not good.

Improving Search With Data

We want to avoid that, and started using our data to better rank results.

Now, ingredient search results are still based on the search term like before, but are also ranked based on data quality (verification, votes score) and usage rate (how often each ingredient has been added to a recipe).

After all, an ingredient that's been chosen hundreds of times is probably a better search result than one that's never been used. And you should want ingredients with high data quality. The double check mark is our key for USDA ingredients and single check marks represent verified user created ingredients.


Search results: after. Data driven ingredient search.

AFTER: highly used USDA verified ingredients showing up first. That's more like it.

This should lead to more users choosing higher quality ingredients in their recipes and finding the right ingredients more easily. All of which makes it easier to make your nutrition labels.

The Results and Feedback

We're very happy with the results in our initial tests, but this is just the first step as we keep improving ReciPal search. There are other intricacies to the search ranking, so feel free to chat us up to learn more.

What do you think so far? Are your ingredient searches looking better? What other improvements can we make? Would you want to be able to search only for USDA or verified ingredients?


About Lev Berlin

Lev Berlin ReciPal SlantShack Author Bio

Lev Berlin is the founder & CEO of ReciPal. Having previously been a founder of SlantShack Jerky, he needed nutrition labels and simple tools to start and run the business. He's read the FDA food labeling code countless times in the process of creating ReciPal and helping small food businesses with their labels. He's reviewed and created thousands of food labels, and been a mentor and guest speaker at food incubators, food business courses, and regulatory conferences, like Brooklyn Foodworks and ICE.

After graduating from Princeton with an engineering degree, Lev was a management consultant, then founder or early employee at half a dozen startups. He loves nothing more than helping other small businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals.


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