Meal kit company Blue Apron is named for the garb worn by those learning to cook, in a symbolic reference to the company’s emphasis on lifelong learning.
It’s hard to think back to a time before meal kits were a viable option for time-stressed consumers, but Blue Apron was there at the very dawn of the concept, and the New York-based company is now celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. One reason for its longevity in this space, according to Blue Apron President and CEO Linda Findley, is its focus on continuing education.
“We named our company Blue Apron as an homage to chefs around the world who wear blue aprons when learning to cook,” explains Findley. “A blue apron symbolizes lifelong learning, a value that permeates everything we do. We make incredible home cooking accessible by creating unique experiences built on original recipes; quality, pre-portioned ingredients; and engaging content. Along the way, as we introduce new flavors, new ingredients, new techniques, and tried-and-true cooking fundamentals, our customers keep learning.”
Other reasons for the company’s success cited by Findley are its “culinary authority,” resulting in “unique chef-curated recipes with ingredient quality that rivals any of our competitors,” and direct relationships with most of its suppliers that enable it to provide a great value for customers every week.
“We also continue to offer our customers the right blend of variety, flexibility and choice,” she notes. “Over the past two years, we’ve focused on evolving our product offerings to give them the right variety to meet their needs in the kitchen. Today, we have over 60 menu options, compared with just 17 in 2019. Not only can customers choose from a variety of recipes, they can also customize and add on select menu items. For example, they can turn a dish with meat into a vegetarian option, double the size of select Two-Serving recipes, or add a side salad, appetizer and/or dessert.”
In another smart strategy, the company expanded to other e-commerce platforms, such as Walmart.com, which allowed it to give customers the option to purchase a Blue Apron box without a subscription and expanded its product visibility to a potential pool of customers who may not have considered Blue Apron otherwise.
Blue Apron President and CEO Linda Findley
Such moves have helped Blue Apron prosper, with a healthy assist from certain societal trends.
“Research continues to point to the fact that cooking at home is increasing in popularity, a trend we saw take shape prior to the start of the pandemic,” observes Findley. “And over the past two years, the popularity of cooking at home is taking on a new meaning, going beyond just cooking, but also learning and expanding one’s skills in the kitchen. We also know that cooking and eating at home is, for some, associated with financial savings. All of this creates a great dynamic for Blue Apron and the meal kit industry as a whole.”
Although, as she points out, the rise of meal kits pre-dated the pandemic, COVID still played a significant role in changing consumer attitudes. “The pandemic has created a big shift around how customers see meal kits and the value they can bring,” asserts Findley. “Prior to the pandemic, meal kits, including Blue Apron, were viewed as more of a convenience play. Now, with more meals being enjoyed at home, we solve that all-too-familiar mealtime rut. We offer a variety of product options that can help address those decision-making moments.”
When asked what lies ahead for meal kits, Findley highlights two major trends: personalization and climate-friendly policies. “I think the future of the meal kit sector will call for more tailored offerings to meet a more niche customer base,” she predicts. “You’ll see an increased number of meal kits focused on meeting specific customer needs, like dietary preferences or experiences in the kitchen, while still focusing on subscription flexibility and convenience. I also believe the industry will become more diligently focused on sustainability, both in terms of packaging and delivery methods.”