As an art school trained designer, I honestly never really learned much about the business side of things. It wasn’t until I started working at a small startup that I was really exposed to and gained an appreciation for various business strategies. As I’ve watched our company try to figure things out it’s been interesting for me to study how other companies get it right. Since Blue Apron is the only startup service I’ve been willing to pay so much for I thought it was worth a little analysis.
I’d like to learn to cook, and occasionally I’d find recipes online and follow the directions reasonably well. But as a busy 20-something I don’t really have the patience to make a habit out of planning meals, buying groceries, and cooking dinner. It’s just too easy to find a variety of restaurants and distractions in every direction and I go out for dinner all the time.
I don’t know what their parameters were for the Facebook ad I clicked in my newsfeed but they did a great job at targeting me. The images showed couples around my age and some good looking dishes. The marketing copy was something along the lines of “Great recipes and all the ingredients you need delivered to your door.” It was immediately obvious to me this offered a solution to a problem I was already aware I had.
At $9.99 per serving it was a no-brainer, especially since living in San Francisco means eating out for dinner almost always costs me way more than that. Other companies’ per meal prices were mostly over $10 which starts to become comparable to eating out and makes it a lot less appealing.
I recognize that people who are good at planning and shopping can bring their per serving cost down a lot lower. But for now this is a good baby step towards spending slightly less money eating out and wasting less money on groceries I that go uneaten in my fridge. I’m trying to just create a habit and get more comfortable in the kitchen, I’ll optimize and refactor later.
I have seen other food subscription box services but I’ve always felt like their positioning made me feel guilty. Pre-prepared ‘just heat it up’ type meals never appealed to me because it would make me look lazy and I can’t build upon it. Other companies only highlight saving time, but just being saving time only appeals to my logical side and not to my emotional side.
Blue Apron on the other hand clearly positions themselves as a way to learn and grow:
“Originally worn by apprentice chefs in France, the Blue Apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.”
I think this is a big differentiator. Their approach makes learning to cook a lot more fun as opposed to making me feel an anxious newbie. Looking at all the little labeled components my roommate called it a Dinner Lego set. It sort of feels like that, but the recipes are interesting enough that I don’t feel like I’m in remedial home-ec.
Simplicity & Quality
When I first signed up there were only two types of boxes, omnivore or vegetarian. Check one box and you’re done. This is perfect for me, because I’m really not a picky eater. I just want something good and reasonably healthy. And the quality really has been great. I’ve had an occasional meal here or there that I thought were just sort of okay, but for the most part I’ve been really impressed.
I’m not just paying for groceries or recipe cards but chef expertise. It’s the convenience of trusting a more qualified person to make decisions I don’t want to be bothered with. Some other companies let you pick the meals you want every week, but the paradox of choice is part of the very problem I’m trying to solve.
I’m sure this also makes the logistics a lot easier on the business side too. Not only do they get to buy in lots of bulk, they deal with customers like myself who are generally not too picky and happy to let them auto charge me $60 a week.
Feel Good Viral Distribution
After a while they give you invites to send some friends free boxes of meals. This seems like a great customer acquisition strategy. I get to feel good by giving my friend a gift that costs me absolutely nothing. I don’t get any sort of referral kickback for new sign ups, just the intrinsic joy of sharing something I like. They get a new customer that has learned about the company through a trusted personal recommendation. I’ve sent out several already and the people who accepted a box went on to subscribe and invite their friends and family as well.
I’m sure there are other reasons why I’ve been hooked for the past few months, but those are the main things that come to mind. Of course, eventually I plan to optimize and wean myself off my culinary training wheels. But by then they’ll already have made a couple thousand bucks off me so that’s not too bad for them. And I’ll walk away with some new cooking skills and a fat stack of saved recipes I’ll already know how to make. But that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.
Oh and let me know if you want to give it a try, I’ve got a few extra free boxes to give away.