How Japan’s SnapDish app catered to foreign foodies



Many mobile applications from Japan aspire to reach a global audience. The food photo and recipe-sharing mobile app SnapDish is an example of such app. And so far, it has fared well.

Up until now it has been available in four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Korean. But it recently announced the addition of seven more: French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Indonesian, and Thai. Snapdish now potentially supports three billion people speaking those eleven languages around the world.

The app, which lets cooking enthusiasts edit and share food photos, was launched in May 2011. To date it has cataloged more than 1.7 million pictures, with more than 10 million Yummies (similar to a Facebook’s Like function).

SnapDish is getting more and more popular, mainly among people who cook at home. They are able to connect with a wide range of people and chat about cooking through photos and recipes. We recently spoke to a SnapDish representative in charge of language support. His comments follow below.

SnapDish on going global

SnapDish representative: When developing and designing the app, which we launched in May of 2011, we had overseas users in mind from the very beginning and we planned to launch its English and Japanese versions at the same time. So with the intention of having an English user interface, instead of simply translating the context literally, we designed the app so it would be easy to use for both Japanese and non-Japanese users.


We also paid close attention to whether or not English expressions in the app sound fun for English users. For example, there is a button called Mogu Mogu in the Japanese version. This works like Facebook’s Like button and users can click it when they like other users’ photos. But in the English version, this button is instead labeled Yummy. Whereas Mogu mogu translates more literally into English as nom nom or chomp chomp, but since such expressions are not as friendly or appealing in English, SnapDish chose the more natural-sounding Yummy. We are taking equal care to use natural expressions as we expand into other languages.

As a result, the application has been regularly downloaded overseas since its initial release. The app gained many users, particularly in Southeast Asia and Chinese-speaking regions, and we quickly learned that it’s not only Japanese foodies, but also folks in other Asian countries like the combination of food and photos.

Even after launching apps, we figure out users’ needs and try to meet those them. For example, genres that can be tagged on pictures are customized to each countries’ food culture. Since the application was developed from the very beginning with foreign users in mind, many users overseas regularly report that they didn’t realize that the application was Japanese. American users often assume that it was developed in an English-speaking country. Such feedback confirms that even foreign users can use the application seamlessly.

Building the business

SnapDish representative: Last year, we expanded our service further by partnering with large foreign companies such as China’s and Korea’s SK Planet. Thanks to these partnerships we realized that there are many people who think the SnapDish app can meet the needs of Asian consumers, and that our service can add value.

Also, we actively applied for overseas startup pitch events last year and participated in Singapore’s Echelon in June, Taiwan’s IDEAS Show in July, and GMIC-SV which was held in San Jose, USA, in October. At those events, we not only made presentations but also set up our booth in venues, so we were able to talk with existing overseas users and build our network. We were even interviewed by foreign media companies, so it was very beneficial from a promotional standpoint as well.

We were well-received especially in Asia, and we had a chance to pitch at Echelon as one of the top 10 startups selected from six Asian countries. We asked an event organizer about the reason why we were selected, and we were told that we differentiated our app from other food photo apps with a home-cooking feature, and that it was great that we had developed a monetization plan.

What’s next for SnapDish?


SnapDish rep: While still paying attention to details in the app, we are looking to provide promotional and communication features that fit in with each local market. For example, we are planning to launch our gift campaign, which is only available in Japan at the moment, to foreign markets.

We continue to put our priority on Asia for our international business. Of course, it doesn’t mean that other regions such as Europe are not important. In Asia, we have already established a substantial user base and are forming a community there. We are already well-grounded in the Asian market, so we would like to solidify that market position.

We also want to continue to take part in pitch events abroad, and at the same time, just like we promoted our service in Asia last year, we are looking for a chance to do the same in Europe as well.

If you want to download SnapDish, you can get it here for iOS and Android.

(Photo: e27)