Blue Apron – How is This a Thing?

Last week we received a mysterious package. It turned out to be a box from Blue Apron, i’m unsure exactly why we got it, but it was addressed to the previous owners of our house. I think that maybe they had previously been subscribers, and maybe this was a free box to get them to come back. Anyway, there wasn’t much we could do as the previous owners live in a  different state. So we got a free box.

This gave us a good opportunity to evaluate it.

For those unfamiliar with the service, Blue Apron is a recipe and ingredients subscription service. They send you box every week (It’s really difficult to find pricing and delivery information without actually signing up) with several meals worth of ingredients in them. The box we received had 2 sets of ingredients in them for a meal for 4. They say the cost is about $9 a serving so logically this was about a $70 box.

Our two recipes was for Chicken Souvlaki and Steak with Sweet Potato Mash. So we received about 1.5 pounds of chicken and a similar amount of steak. There was also individual packets of other ingredients, herbs, vegetables sauces etc. Finally two step by step recipe cards which allowed you to prepare and cook the meals.

So lets break down this $70 box. One and half pounds of chicken would cost no more than $5 in the store, the steak maybe $10. The vegetables, sauces and herbs would be maybe another $10. So if i’m being generous the entire two meals ingredients could be bought at the store for $25-$30. You are therefore paying over $40 for the privilege of having these ingredients shipped to your door.

The thing is you cant even use the argument that this $40 is the opportunity cost to replace you needing to go to the supermarket. The box had enough in it for 2 main meals. You would still need to provide dinner for the other 5 days, plus lunches and breakfast.

So I genuinely don’t understand who this is for. If you are working long days, you still need to cook, this isn’t prepared food being delivered to your door GrubHub style. If you are short on time, you still need to go to the grocery store. I guess if you live in somewhere like Manhattan where grocery stores are scarce and you maybe eat out for lunch everyday, that the two person plan might work, but the four person plan is clearly designed for families, and the food isn’t particularly kid-friendly.

At $9 a serving this is more than I usually pay for restaurant food! when cooking I would consider paying $9 for the entire family of 4 to be an expensive meal.

Oh and the wasteful packaging. Everything was individually wrapped in plastic, and packed with two giant cool boxes. I thought it was worryingly impactful on the environment.

Was there anything good? Well, the recipe cards were excellent. I could absolutely see buying a cookbook with say 200 of these recipes in. The cards made me feel like I could cook anything!

It will be interesting to see if this business model is sustainable, at IPO last year the share price was $10, currently it’s about $1.80, and they have shed 100,000 subscribers over the last few months from 850,000 to 750,000 and 250,000 or a quarter in a year. It’s also a crowded market with many companies, including WalMart launching a service.

I would be happy to be corrected for any mistakes I have made regarding their subscription model or pricing and also any insights from people who use the service as to what it gives you.

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Moose
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Blue Apron won’t survive long-term. The next recession will be the end of it. Calling it now, short Blue Apron.

Joe
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I agree with Moose. People have too much money and too little time right now. When money becomes tight, this will be one of the first things to go.

Cooking is much easier now. There are endless recipes on YouTube. I guess if you have no idea what to cook, then having everything spell out for you might help. Not for me.

Frieds
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Frieds

I do not subscribe myself but I have friends who do. I agree that it is not a good value for the food you get. However, I think the value in it is introducing people to foods and recipes they otherwise never would try. Many of the meals contain ingredients that non-cooks are unfamiliar with and might be uninclined to seek out at the grocery store or use in recipies. For the people I know who use them it is more a form of entertainment. Cooking lessons in a box. Also, if you are busy and tired from work, having… Read more »

JoeHx
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My wife and I got one of these boxes – or one from a competitor – as a wedding gift. I agree it costs too much, and there is a ton of packaging. It was fun, though, but it would’ve been just as fun if we had to go to the grocery store ourselves.

Mr. Tako
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I never understood why people liked these services. I mean… I get the convenience of not shopping, but why would I want someone else decide what I’m eating?

jim
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I think the value the meal kits provide is giving you a preassembled meal with the right ingredients in the right amount with a good recipe. I think this is more of value for someone who’s not a experienced cook and who wants a fancier meal. I think it is tailored best to people who really don’t make much themselves and yet would like to make a nice homecooked meal. If your’e a fairly competent cook already then I don’t think its going to be too useful for you. But if you want an easy way to expand your cooking… Read more »