“What Blue Apron does is try to make incredible home cooking accessible” by disrupting the traditional retail store grocery shopping model and showing consumers that there is a better way to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients, said Matt Salzberg, founder and CEO of Blue Apron.
He explained under the traditional shopping model that consumers go to stores where they are presented with “infinite choices” that could overwhelm and discourage them from buying a new food, for which they would need to find a recipe and research how to cook when they returned home. If they select the wrong recipe, consumers might not like the taste or think the food is too much work to buy again.
But Blue Apron lowers the barrier for consumers to try new foods by selecting fresh ingredients that might be unfamiliar to consumers and pairing them with step-by-step recipes created in its test kitchen that best showcase the products flavor and full potential. The company makes it even easier for consumers to try new foods by shipping to their doorsteps everything they need for a successful cooking experience, Salzberg said.
The company does all this for about 60% less money than consumers would spend if they purchased the ingredients the old-fashioned way at the store, Salzberg said. He explained that Blue Apron’s prices are lower because it can negotiate a better price by buying in bulk, it cuts out the middle man and it provides only the amount of each ingredient necessary, so that no food (or money) is wasted.
Blue Apron delivers results for suppliers
Blue Apron also benefits start-up suppliers that might not yet have scaled-up production enough to be commercially viable on the large-scale required by many chain grocery stores for national or even regional distribution, Salzberg said.
The company helps suppliers not only by exposing consumers to their products when they are delivered in the meal boxes, but it also shares suppliers’ and entrepreneurs’ stories through videos and posts on its blog. This educational – and entertaining – component of Blue Apron helps engage consumers with the brand to build awareness, inspire additional purchases and engender loyalty, Salzberg said.
A recent video and blog post on the company’s website highlighted Vermont Creamery, the products of which were featured in several recipes and meal kits delivered to consumers. The video takes viewers on a Mr. Roger’s style tour of the goat farm and factory where Vermont Creamery goat cheese is made and explains the production process from milking the goats through packaging the finished product. It also introduces consumers to the farmers and owners behind the product.
Other “passionate” suppliers featured in Blue Apron meal kits, videos and blog posts include Tortilleria Nixtamal and Sun Noodle, Salzberg noted.
“Consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from and learning about food,” such as how it was made, how it should taste and how best to serve it – all of which are covered in a typical video about the suppliers, Salzberg said.
This curiosity is one of the main reasons that consumers are turning to online grocery shopping and meal or food delivery services where they can more easily learn more about their food and the producers than in brick and mortar stores, he said.
Once consumers find a product they love through Blue Apron, they can purchase it again, Salzberg said. Many of Blue Apron’s past supply partners continue to sell their products to Blue Apron’s customers either through ongoing participation in the meal kit delivery service or by the customers trying the ingredients in the boxes and then purchasing directly from the supplier or seeking out the product in local stores, he explained.
What Blue Apron looks for in suppliers
The ability to tell good stories about how a food is made is only one feature Blue Apron looks for when searching for suppliers with which to partner, Salzberg said.
“We look for the best suppliers, but focus on local and regional companies, on family run businesses” and new entrepreneurs, he explained. “We are looking for people who can provide great customer service, high quality products and great prices. We also want people who have ethical practices … and good food safety programs,” he added.
Ultimately though, “our supply decisions are based on the culinary decisions” of Blue Apron chefs who “choose the ingredients and suppliers so that each recipe comes out optimally,” Salzberg said.
Blue Apron hits the 1 million mark
Blue Apron’s dedication to selecting well-made, flavorful ingredients for its meal kits and crafting easy to replicate but unique recipes has helped the young company grow quickly in the two years since it launched. In 2012, the company “started from scratch” without any subscribers, but now it serves more than 1 million meals a month, Salzberg said.
To meet this demand, Blue Apron recently opened a new fulfillment center in New Jersey that began shipping meals in December.
The company also recently expanded to sell kitchen tools and cookware hand-selected by Blue Apron’s culinary team. While no special tools are needed to make the meals delivered in Blue Apron’s boxes, the Blue Apron Market can help consumers find high-quality kitchen essentials, such as a chef’s knife developed by the Japanese firm Korin, Salzberg said.