How Blue Apron Became a Massive $2 Billion Disaster -

Dr. Merkwurdichliebe

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https://observer.com/2020/02/blue-apron-disaster-silicon-valley/ (http://archive.ph/EJIHN)

How Blue Apron Became a Massive $2 Billion Disaster
By Chris Roberts • 02/20/20

If you like to cook but not to shop or plan your own meals, and if you weren’t too hungry, and if you didn’t like cooking for too many friends, then Blue Apron—the startup delivering precisely measured, prepackaged amounts of just enough salmon, green beans, butter and lemon for one meal, no leftovers—was for you.

Exactly who it was that was both upwardly mobile to pay for this service while also having a barren kitchen, nobody really knew—but by the divine math of Silicon Valley gamblers, your existence made this an idea worth several billion dollars and potent enough to “disrupt” the grocery business. People actually believed this. Or they did until Jeff Bezos and Amazon went shopping and bought out Whole Foods. Or until HelloFresh launched. Or until Blue Apron spent millions on packaging and shipping, as well as marketing, literally gifting away boxes of neatly assorted ingredients to millennials who never ordered another box. All this conspired to, one-by-one, wreck Blue Apron’s IPO, crater stock prices to all-time list lows, kick founders out of company leadership and now, at last, the seemingly undeniable, ultimate doom of the company.

After losing another $23.7 million in the last three months of 2019, Blue Apron is laying off 240 workers and shutting down the shop at its Arlington, Texas warehouse location. Blue Apron will keep, for now, its California and New York assembly-and-distribution shops, while leaders ponder peddling what’s left at a paltry $50 million price tag. Meanwhile, customers continue to desert Blue Apron, down to 351,000 in the last quarter of 2019, from 557,000 the year before.

Selling off Blue Apron that low would mean a loss in the neighborhood of $143 million for Blue Apron’s capital investors, including Fidelity and Goldman Sachs. That hurts, but as usual, retail investors took the worst hit. Stock-market playing rubes, who bought in when Blue Apron went public at $11 a share, have lost more than 80% on their investment—and that represents a recovery. Shares were trading for $3.60 at the close on Wednesday, up from 2018 when Blue Apron was worth less than a dollar.

There’s no other analysis than this: Blue Apron was one of the biggest-ever Silicon Valley catastrophes, a mix of hubris, unrealistic expectations, a misunderstanding of how people exist in the world—and, Amazon. But how could it have gone so wrong? Why was Blue Apron valued at more than $3 billion at one point, as were the pre-IPO whispers?

Three years into existence, back in 2015, the company was “killing it of late,” as TechCrunch put it. Blue Apron was selling a reported three million meals a month, at roughly $10 a per meal. This was cash flow and user growth that emboldened Blue Apron to claim it would someday “reach 99% of potential home cooks.”

And it would do this “custom fulfillment software tools and investing in automation” at its fulfillment centers—an enormous infrastructure, a veritable coast-to-coast ecosphere of logistics that, realistically, would have required blanketing the country in Blue Apron prep kitchens. Meanwhile, the company pitched investors on its “hard-to-replicate value chain” and “powerful and emotional brand connection.” As usual, none of this actually existed.

People didn’t really care about Blue Apron, whose business model had enormous baked-in costs. To get even close to fulfilling the billion-dollar promise—to cover the country in boxes of apportioned ingredients—Blue Apron would have to start making money, and that never happened. One problem is that established grocery stores got wise and started delivering—and delivering full sticks of butter, not just amuse-bouches.

Blue Apron lost even its novelty factor. Instead of having the uncooked-meal-delivery game to itself, Blue Apron signaled a potential opportunityfor a horde of far more established competitors, all of whom had lower costs and more diversified revenue streams. This is partially why Blue Apron lost lots of money, even when it was still a unicorn: $54.9 million in 2016 and then another $52 million in 2017. And that second year, the loss was more than 20% over company revenue, as Blue Apron blew millions on marketing.

As for capturing 99% of “potential home cooks”? Home cooks like to shop for ingredients and maybe buy more than exactly what they and maybe one other person might need—that’s how you save money cooking at home, after all—and those who did want meal-quantity deliveries just didn’t want to bother cooking.

As Marketwatch reported, Blue Apron hopes to get swallowed up by another company, possibly food giants Kraft Heinz, Walmart or even Starbucks. All of those companies have presences in almost every city. They could, in theory, produce ready-to-cook meals at scale and duplicate costs like storage and sourcing items.

It’s easy in 2020, with grocery deliveries de-rigeuer, to see why Blue Apron failed. It was probably also easy to see something was wrong at any other time since the company started carefully distributing pats of butter throughout the country.

-- End of Story --

I wonder if John Flynt will write an obituary.
 

Dr. Merkwurdichliebe

Kiwiminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda
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Picking people like John as spokesthings might have had something to do with it.
It is impossible to understand how having Twitter images of their nasty, burned-to-ashes meals displayed on a greasy, filthy stovetop by a tranny con artist with the culinary skills of Grendel didn't lead to a stock price beyond the dreams of avarice.
 

The Final Troondown

Paint Me Like One Of Your French Snakes
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Picking people like John as spokesthings might have had something to do with it.
John is the exact market for their service though - A complete amateur who likes to think of themselves as an expert cook but doesn't want to put any of the effort in to learn to shop, adjust recipes and portion properly. Just follow the instructions and you can be a michellin star chef and the envy of your peers.
 

King Dead

Cops are better when they're mecha.
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John is the exact market for their service though - A complete amateur who likes to think of themselves as an expert cook but doesn't want to put any of the effort in to learn to shop, adjust recipes and portion properly. Just follow the instructions and you can be a michellin star chef and the envy of your peers.
In a way, I can kind of understand the Blue Apron business model. Some people don't know the first thing about cooking and might even be intimidated by the prospect of searching for recipes, going out and buying the ingredients, and putting it all together. Or maybe they're just lazy and don't want to leave the house, I dunno. However, they might feel that if they're basically handheld throughout the process, then maybe they can actually handle it. So they'll just order a meal kit and get the exact amount of ingredients they need along with all the instructions required, sent right to their door. And there you go, a homecooked meal on training wheels.

But like that article points out, the service basically didn't make any sense. Those who like to cook wouldn't bother using the service because they already know how to shop for groceries and don't need someone else to send individual portions to their homes. And those who don't like to cook obviously wouldn't use it. The only thing it had going for it was grocery delivery, but now a lot of grocery chains are doing just that. There's literally no reason for Blue Apron to exist.

It'd be great if John posted a mournful tweet about its impending demise and included pictures of how he managed to fuck up each meal they sent him.
 

mandatorylurk

kiwifarms.net
Blue Apron podcast live reads were a big factor in me giving up on 95% of podcasts in general a few years back, it was the OG Raid Shadow Legends. In some way this feels a bit cathartic.

In general with these cook prep companies, the finished food just doesn't look good. I watched a Drew Gooden video the other week and he did an ad for Hello Fresh where he actually cooked the meal, and on top of poor Zoomer cooking skills, the end product was this crappy looking red bean quesadilla you could make with just simple understanding of heat and stove, and on top of that for brownies they just sent a package of pillsbury ready to bake you find in the store. Even for hardcore agoraphobics just go to the store for an hour each week or two and stock up and save money.
 

Francis York Morgan

FBI Special Agent
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In general with these cook prep companies, the finished food just doesn't look good.
It's not impossible to make the dishes look decent if you have some cooking skills. But if you do have those skills, why would you go for a service where you have little to no control over the quality and quantity of your ingredients? I confess that I've never quite understood who these food services are for. If someone is already too lazy to want to cook for themselves, I don't feel like this is going to change things. If you can cook for yourself, then you know that the prices are high for how much you get.
Even for hardcore agoraphobics just go to the store for an hour each week or two and stock up and save money.
Or use one of the dozens of other ways to get your food, like grocery delivery services or just paying someone to go do it for you.

We had a free offer for Blue Apron in our household and I was largely unimpressed. Dishes tasted underseasoned, portions were barely enough to feed everyone (so zero chance of ever having leftovers for taking to work), and the prices were too high for the quantity you were getting. All in all, it didn't make me want to pay extra for what I considered an underwhelming dinner.
 

Ex Cummunicated Sasser HD

Sláinte!!!
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Sort of power levelling here, but never saw the point of stuff like this... Pretty much every big brand supermarket I know does free home delivery over a certain amount, or a nominal fee at most, and I used to be a meat manager for the biggest supermarket in the world, meaning stuff that was fine that was marked as best before, even if it was fine, I used to mark down to 10p, regardless of original price, then if there was anything I fancied, I'd hide it round the back and then buy it. £22 leg of lamb? 10p (plus my 10% discount which I never used because that would identify me). I was and still am good friends with who was at the time the produce manager, and he did the same... 5kg sweet potatoes that are normally £4.60, 10p, and we used to stash stuff for each other... I once got him an uncut sirloin that would have weighed in at £33 for 10p, and he used to do the same. Now the thing was, It wasn't just staff who took advantage of this, we had a load of Chinese people who knew exactly when to turn up, and would even bring stuff to me to mark down, pushing and shoving each other.... I always used to mark everything down to 10p, not just the recommended by the computer 10-15% off, because even 10p at a major loss was not counted as waste if it didn't sell, so as a manager with next to zero waste, I was getting monthly bonuses almost as much as my salary... They counted all sales as profit, sure it's changed now but even this was around 2012-4.

This was a huge place, and Store managers were on close to 7 figures, Section managers were on very high 5 figures or even 6 with bonuses...

Even cooked a full christmas meal, 4 courses for 10 people once with 3 choices of meats, (2 whole Sirloin, 2 Turkey crowns and 3 full pork loins), all the trimmings etc and the whole thing cost me less than £20... Spent more on the table decorations and napkins than the food in the end and so did my friend...

Shit, even if I'd paid full price I would have been out far far less than what the blue apron shit were charging, and I would know it was fresh... Shit even my little corner shop would be cheaper, and they have to charge 100% more than a large retailer because of more chance of spoilage and higher cost of supply.

My point is, I can't even imagine who this service was for apart from Wu...

I actually tried the freebie deal, being a cook myself, and most of my stuff arrived either half, mostly or entirely rotten.
Not in the least surprised about this...
 
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Celestial Being

kiwifarms.net
I love cooking at home, and I especially enjoy shopping at the grocery store. Since I do not have children I like to just slowly make my way through the store listening to a podcast and just get whatever. My in laws have used blue apron and while it never looked bad, I definitely didn't see the value proposition. The portions seemed small, and they were always having to add their own seasoning. They cancelled after a few months.

Also grocery delivery is getting fairly cheap and widespread. I frequently get $20 off coupons for it and all the major stores seem to be pushing it hard.

As a complete aside/opinion I think cooking is a vital life skill, and its basics should be taught at school. My girlfriend basically cant do anything but bake, I am slowly teaching her how to cook various things because she lived off Subway until we met. Services like Blue Apron don't promote much creativity or help your skills as a cook.
 

Feline Supremacist

I am a Dog-Exclusionary Radical Felinist
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As a complete aside/opinion I think cooking is a vital life skill, and its basics should be taught at school. My girlfriend basically cant do anything but bake, I am slowly teaching her how to cook various things because she lived off Subway until we met. Services like Blue Apron don't promote much creativity or help your skills as a cook.
Home economics used to be taught in high schools all over the USA.
 

Celestial Being

kiwifarms.net
I've never used it but no seasoning? I assumed it was extremely overpriced, but how do you cook without any seasoning?

I imagined you got little sachets or something....
I didn't mean to imply the food wasn't seasoned, from what I saw it was. But my in laws just added more on top of what was already there. I only saw them prepare a few of these and it was only chicken dishes.
 

Papa Adolfo's Take'n'Bake

It's screamin' good.
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I think the article really hits the nail on the head with how little Silicon Valley Simps understood the market. Myself and prolly the vast majority of people who grew up dirt poor usually shop like this on a given week:
Cabbage ~$2
5lb bag of potatoes - $2-$2.50
Whatever meat is on sale and will approximately last the week NMT $5
Eggs $2
Bread $2
Butter $2.50

Given that this lasted the week, $16 / 7 days is approximately $2.29 a day for food.

10$ a meal defeats the main purpose of cooking your own food: basic economics. At 10$ a meal, 1 meal a day that's $70 a week, and for what? A sub par quality dinner i still have to cook?

My point is, Blue Apron almost certainly arose from the very smooth brain of a sheltered suburbanite who never had to fend for themselves and certainly didn't know about or notice the habits of most people around them.
 

3119967d0c

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Mmmmm yeah, I love myself some good Silicon Valley schadenfreude. Hopefully SV startup culture bullshit will be another casualty of this next decade.
You have to imagine that their biggest market was always right there in San Francisco. A bunch of techbros who don't want to slum it with working-class people at their local supermarket.

After that, I always noticed that their ad reads emphasised minimal waste. I suspect there are SWPLs out there who really would rather pay twice as much money for less food so they don't have to agonize about how they're going to use up the leftover lettuce or throw it away.
 

Autumnal Equinox

I hope you relish it as much as I
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Blue Apron and other similar projects always looked ridiculous to me. Ever have an Easy Bake Oven or other kiddie food toy as a child? This is what it reminds me of, kiddie food prep for manchildren too lazy or too stupid to learn basic cooking/food prep skills and want to LARP as "one of the grown ups!"
 

dreamworks face

Model bugman
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I used Blue Apron for a bit when I was living with a female software engineer and we had more money and less time than we knew what to do with, and the nearest grocery store was 7 miles away. The recipes were actually pretty cool and I learned how to cook a bunch of things I wouldn't ordinarily have attempted (I can make ramen now) and it turned out pretty well. I can't imagine it working in a household with more or fewer than two people, and you can get most of the effect with buying a cookbook.
 

The Fool

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Blue Apron was purely a brand. It logically makes no sense, it's essentially competing with other instant single-person meal solutions like TV dinners and instant noodles, except at a much higher price with less convenience. No practical person would buy it, their only hope was brand recognition from people who saw it fashionable. That is a very, very small market and is not even remotely sustainable, you're essentially turning your entire business model and brand into a fashion trend.
 
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