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SparkPeople sees New Year's app download surge

Posted at 6:01 AM, Jan 18, 2016

The folks at SparkPeople Inc., a Downtown Cincinnati-based creator of health, fitness and food content, celebrated New Year happily saying, “We’re number two!”

The company’s flagship app, the Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker, reached No. 2 among fitness and health apps at the Google Play App Store on Dec. 31, and stayed there until Jan. 3, when it fell to No. 3. That was better than apps by competitors Weight Watchers and Google Fit, but just behind No. 1 Fitbit, said Joe Robb, SparkPeople’s digital marketing director.

Joe Robb is digital marketing director for downtown-based SparkPeople Inc. (Provided photo)

“We’ve never had such a massive influx of new app users,” Robb said. “It (was) an exciting couple of days.”

Daily downloads have remained high at 5,000 to 12,000 ever since, he said, and the app was still in the Top 5 through the weekend. It has a 4.3 out of 5 stars rating from more than 11,000 reviews..

The company usually sees a jump in downloads just after Christmas, Robb said, but not like this year’s. There were 560 downloads on Christmas Day, he said, versus 7,000 on Dec. 26. In the days following, downloads averaged 10,000 to 15,000 per day, he said.

In 2015, the highest number of daily downloads in January was 2,215 on Jan. 5.

Google Play is the largest app store in the world, with more than 1.43 million apps listed. At the end of last year, the main SparkPeople app reached No. 143 among all U.S. app downloads, not just health and fitness apps.

Since its release four years ago, the Android version had been downloaded from the Google Play store about half a million times, Robb said, not counting the past few weeks. The iOS version (for Apple products like iPhone), introduced just prior to the Android version, has been downloaded about 1.5 million times.

Downloads of the iOS version also increased after Christmas, Robb said, but not so sharply as the Android version. It climbed to the 27th spot for all Apple health and fitness apps in the United States, up from the 260th spot just after Christmas.

SparkPeople’s Apple recipe app, Healthy Recipes, also moved up from an average ranking in the mid-80s in December to the No. 30 spot in the U.S. Food and Drink category. The company has more than 20 different apps, all of them free.

Get SparkPeople apps

  • Download the Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker from Google Play (Android), iTunes (iOS) or Amazon (Android).
  • See all of SparkPeople’s apps and get download links from the company’s mobile apps page.
Why the jump this year? Robb thinks it’s because the company, which has existed since 2001, has learned how to build a community of users. The company says it has nearly 16 million registered users and nearly 7 million unique visitors per month to its website. There are also more than 500,000 healthful recipes on that site.

“During the past year, we spent a lot of time making our app clean, easy to use and intuitive,” he said. “I think people like it. They told their friends about it.”

SparkPeople has 30 employees. Robb declined to disclose exact figures, but he said the company is closing in on $10 million in annual revenue, most from advertising. The company is just as focused on building market share and strong assets as it is on revenue, he said.

Before founding SparkPeople in 2001, Chris Downie created Up4Sale.com, an online auction company later sold to eBay. (Provided photo)

Chris Downie founded the company with the idea that it could help people reach their fitness goals, or “spark people” into action, Robb said. With three friends, Downie had previously created Up4Sale.com, an online auction company, which was sold to eBay in July 1998. Downie worked at eBay for a time after the sale, and then started SparkPeople.

The mobile and wearable health and fitness industry has seen some big paydays lately, Robb said, including the initial public offering of Fitbit, which now has a market capitalization of $4 billion, and the $475 million purchase of MyFitnessPal by UnderArmor.

SparkPeople’s New Year’s resolution is to focus on expanding its apps’ presence and its community, Robb said. If the company keeps seeing downloads at high volumes, he added, it will become one of the most widely known names in the fitness industry.

“We’re going to ride this wave and see where it takes us,” he said.

About SparkPeople