It's a question we ask ourselves multiple times a day, and when you factor in family members' food preferences and dietary restrictions, it can feel like one of the most complicated questions we face on a regular basis—what should I eat?
Mara Segal, senior manager of product management and the Alexa Kitchen team lead, is here to help. This week, her team is launching the What to Eat experience to help give curated meal ideas based on your family's personal tastes and dietary restrictions—just ask, "Alexa, what should I eat?"
The experience is one of several rolling out in the U.S., UK, Canada, and Germany on Echo and Alexa-enabled devices and will be available on the Echo Show 15—our new digital hub for the home—when it begins shipping to customers.
We sat down with Mara to learn more about how she and her team are building new Alexa experiences, so customers can get inspiration on what to eat and never get tired of the same old options day in and day out.
Tell us about your Amazon journey.
I've always loved pioneering new experiences for customers. I'm a bit of a neophile—embracing what's new and trying to read shifts in technology and culture, to identify opportunities for innovation.
I joined Amazon more than three years ago in technical product management and have had the opportunity to work on a variety of programs, helping launch Echo Dot with Clock, Smart Home Dashboard on Fire TV and Echo devices, and other innovations. I joined the Alexa Household Organization team about a year ago and now lead the Alexa Kitchen team, where I have the pleasure of thinking about food all day on behalf of customers.
What has your team been working on?
My team's goal is to help customers get inspired and stay informed around food and make it easier for them to discover and purchase or make their next meal with Alexa's assistance.
As part of this focus, we introduced an experience called What to Eat—where customers can find meal inspiration based on preferences and dietary restrictions they share with Alexa. This means ideas for new recipes, nearby restaurants, prepared foods from the grocery store, or even meal kits. Just say "Alexa, what should I eat?" to discover new ideas. Customers can also add dietary preferences by saying, "Alexa, open my food preferences."
What inspired your team to build the What to Eat feature?
Earlier this year, we launched "Alexa, What's for Dinner?" an experience that provides tailored recipe ideas based on a customer's recent purchases from Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh. When developing What to Eat, we wanted to build on this experience to provide even more meal inspiration, including convenient meal solutions to fit the modern household and personalized results, as food is inherently personal. We added everything from personalized restaurant and delivery recommendations to prepared foods from Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh; meal deals from Domino's Pizza; Blue Apron meal kits; and delicious recipes from Allrecipes, Tasty, Epicurious, and more. Whether you are looking for some quick inspiration or planning meals for the week, Alexa is now your home base for tailored food inspiration.
What do you think customers will be most excited about?
Customers consume roughly 20 meals for the week. Finding a recipe, getting groceries, picking restaurants, and cooking a meal—it all takes time. We think customers will be excited to break out of their routines and get quick, personalized assistance. With What to Eat and our suite of Alexa Kitchen features, we can make the food journey easier end-to-end—getting that great idea, saving favorites from different food and recipe providers in one place, adding ingredients to the Alexa shopping list or cart, and cooking meal kits or recipes hands-free with Alexa's assistance.
Any advice you'd share with other Amazon employees working to bring innovations to fruition?
Be ready to listen, learn, and iterate, and don't get overwhelmed by the unknowns. I like to approach innovation with courage and humility—know the journey can be challenging and you won't have all of the answers, but persistence pays off. Start by formulating the questions you need to answer to make progress, and chisel away at the ambiguity. So much of it is forming the right questions, generating hypotheses, learning, and refining thinking as you progress. And never lose the voice of the customer as you iterate; keep understanding how they perceive the offering, and be sensitive to how decisions you make affect that perception.
More About Mara Segal
Mara leads the Alexa Kitchen team. Prior to joining Amazon, she worked for a variety of companies, including Samsung, Essential (an Alexa Fund company), and a VC-funded startup she founded called U*tique and has been granted 26 patents over the course of her career. Mara currently resides in Menlo Park, California with her husband, daughter, and two cats—Elsa and Ciel.