How Blue Apron plans to hold on to its customers post-pandemic

Alexis Christoforous
·Anchor
·3 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a lifeline for Blue Apron (APRN). The meal kit company that was considering selling itself just one year ago, posted a 22% jump in revenue in Q4 to $115.5 million, amid a surge in at-home eating brought on by the pandemic.

The value of the average order rose to a six year high of $61. Even so, Blue Apron posted a quarterly net loss of $11.9 million.

President and CEO Linda Findley Kozlowski told Yahoo Finance Live that Blue Apron expects to generate double-digit revenue growth in 2021 as it boosts spending on marketing.

“We put a lot of things in place during the pandemic that really enhanced both our product and our marketing,” said Kozlowski, “so we're focusing on acquisition and customer value growth right now, much as the same as we would outside of the pandemic.”

Blue Apron may have been among the first to offer at-home meal kits when it launched in 2012, but it lost its early leadership position in a crowded market. At its peak in 2015–2016, Blue Apron was delivering over 8 million meals per month and raking in over $1 billion in annual sales. Now, it’s going head to head with HelloFresh, Sun Basket, and Gousto, and it’s indirectly competing with food delivery services such as Uber Eats (UBER), DoorDash (DASH), and Grubhub (GRUB).

With the exception of a $1.1 million profit in Q2 of 2020, Blue Apron has consistently been in the red since going public in 2017.

Blue Apron CEO Matt Salzberg, center, joins applause with fellow company co-founders Matt Wadiak, second left, and Ilia Papas, second from right, during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange before their IPO begins trading, Thursday, June 29, 2017. NYSE President Tom Farley is at right. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Blue Apron CEO Matt Salzberg, center, joins applause with fellow company co-founders Matt Wadiak, second left, and Ilia Papas, second from right, during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange before their IPO begins trading, Thursday, June 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

For the second straight quarter, the company lost customers and analysts fear that trend could continue as more restaurants re-open as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

Kozlowski, who took the helm at Blue Apron in 2019, says product innovation will be key to retaining customers. She says their "one-pot meals" have proven to be popular, and the company plans to roll out new products this year that were put on hold in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Right now, we're seeing a lot of trending towards special occasion meals. Our premium meals continue to sell well, and also our specialty boxes that we introduced, including our Stella Artois, Stella stadium bites that we introduced around the Super Bowl.”

She says kale continues to be a popular ingredient for at-home cooks and that scallops are “having their moment." Kozlowski believes Blue Apron is well positioned to capitalize on people's changing eating habits — which she said has changed for good.

“We know people are planning on cooking more at home after the pandemic than they did before the pandemic because they developed new skills," she said. "They're starting to get a lot of additional technical skills in the kitchen and getting pretty proud of them. So we want to be a part of that moment.”

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.