The unannounced rollout of a new app category in the iTunes App Store late last week generally shouldn’t be much to report about. But in this case the addition of the Food & Drink vertical to both iPad and iPhone downloads has a demonstrable impact on the ways in which leading consumer brands and media entities appear to users. The new category includes apps that address the food retail segment, recipe tools, and restaurant and fast food finders.
The upside for companies like Dominos, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, AllRecipes and Food Network is that they now have a clean, well-lit place apart from increasingly unfocused Lifestyle and Entertainment app categories where some of these brands popped up in the past.
The new category demonstrates just how powerful highly evolved branded service apps can be for hungry and thirsty mobile users. For example, the top free apps over the weekend in the Food & Drink category for the iPhone were Starbucks, Urbanspoon, Domino’s Pizza USA, Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s Pizza, Mixology Drink Recipes, Clean Eating (a digital magazine), OpenTable and Chipotle Ordering. Among the top-grossing paid apps in the category, media brands such as Food Network, Zagat and MapMuse get high exposure.
On the iPad, the new category gives major media an opportunity to surface more prominently. The top free apps for the tablet here include Food Network, All Recipes, Cook’s Illustrated, OpenTable, Bon Appetit and Weight Watchers.
The Food & Drink category gives consumer-facing brands a clearer runway than the cluttered dumping ground that is the Lifestyle category. For reasons unclear to me, we find in this silo the retail apps for eBay and Amazon along with real estate apps from Zillow and Realtor. Many of the food and drink apps had found their way into Lifestyle, Health & fitness and Entertainment in the past. Many app publishers try to game the app store by categorizing their offerings for silos where there is less overall download volume, thus giving their brands a better opportunity to surface.