Changing habits sparked by the coronavirus pandemic positioned some companies — such as Blue Apron — to do better than others.
With more people cooking at home, the meal kit delivery service reported 10% growth in net income during the second quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. President and CEO Linda Findley Kozlowski thinks the company’s growth in subscribers and revenue will sustain after the pandemic ends.
Research and customer feedback suggest that people will continue cooking at home more after the pandemic, she says.
“Habits are changing,” she says. “Even after things start to open up again, [customers] started to see value in the connection with family and the cost savings that comes from cooking at home.”
Kozlowski says people buy meal kits for three main reasons: meal planning, convenience and food waste.
For many families, meal kits remove the stress of arguing over what to make for dinner every night and provide variety, she says. Plus, Blue Apron delivers high-quality ingredients right to the customer’s doorstep.
With people complaining about over-buying food for a recipe and throwing away the extras, Blue Apron focuses on reducing food waste in both its supply chain and customers’ homes, she says.
“You're getting great meals, but you're not feeling like you're having to buy a giant jar of sauce for something where you only might need a small amount or buying too much produce that goes bad too quickly,” she says.
A study from the University of Michigan found that the carbon footprint of using the service is a third lower than shopping at the grocery store, including both packaging and transportation.
Food waste is the “biggest culprit” when it comes to the company’s carbon footprint, she says, and technology helps them understand customers’ needs based on what people order. If there’s a surplus, the company offers the extra food to employees through its farmer’s market program and donates the rest to organizations such as City Harvest.
More than 85% of Blue Apron’s packaging is recyclable, and it’s also the first meal kit service to participate in the How2Recycle Label Program, which teaches customers to properly recycle. However, much of the waste that’s recycled is never made into new products. Kozlowski says the company aims to ensure cities and counties continue recycling programs.
During the pandemic, Kozlowski says the company’s tight supply chains has helped the company manage fluctuations in the quality or availability of ingredients.
“Because of the fact that we are using fresh ingredients in our recipes, we want to make sure that if something isn't the best quality, that we can adapt the recipe and switch to a different ingredient,” she says. “That flexibility has worked well for us during the pandemic because we're able to manage and work with our suppliers to make sure that we have minimal disruption in our supply chain."
The company audits suppliers to ensure they meet its high safety and sanitation standards, she says.
Within the meal kit industry, Blue Apron faces competition from HelloFresh, Plated, Sun Basket, Purple Carrot and others.
What sets Blue Apron apart is its in-house team of culinary experts, frequent new recipes and unique ingredients typically found in specialty stores, she says. Alongside quality produce, the company also offers proteins that meet high animal welfare standards.
Plus, the company offers customers healthy options including low-carb recipes, and partnered with the American Diabetes Association and WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. Many people focusing on health during the summer gravitated toward fish dishes and gained confidence in cooking the protein, she says.
At the same time, many customers came to Blue Apron looking for comfort foods such as pasta and noodles during the pandemic. People love the company’s burgers because of the high-quality meat and potato buns, she says, but also the techniques they learn.
“We're big believers in not just giving you what you need in order to make something,” she says, “but teaching you how to make it better.”
This segment aired on August 26, 2020.