Blue Apron is one of several start-ups attacking the food delivery business, but the first to IPO. The company’s business focuses on delivering refrigerated, portioned ingredients for particular recipes.
About 12 percent of U.S. grocery shoppers bought their groceries online at some point in 2016, according to Cowen and Company.
But it’s a market that could potentially boom, according to research by NPD Group.
“It makes perfect sense that as online grocery shopping grows it will drive the adoption of meal kits,” Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group, said in a statement. “Online grocery shoppers can save time by not having to search through multiple websites, and they both work hand-in-hand in meeting the consumer’s need for convenience with the delivery of a fresh meal they can prepare at home.”
That said, there is fierce competition for those food delivery dollars, including from technology behemoth Amazon. Amazon agreed to buy Whole Foods in a $13.7 billion deal announced earlier this month. The acquisition builds on Amazon’s burgeoning grocery store business, and delivery business Amazon Fresh.
Blue Apron, meanwhile, has posted steeper net losses each year since 2014, according to regulatory filings. An expose by BuzzFeed News last fall highlighted extreme stress in Blue Apron’s packing facilities, where logistics were reportedly a struggle.
Rivals have had their fair share of strife.
Within the last two years, delivery app SpoonRocket was acquired, Danny Meyer-backed Umi Kitchen stalled out, citing “the trickiness of making delivery economics work out for everyone involved.” Instacart workers have staged public protests about falling tips, as the CEO is openly pinching pennies. Analysts have pushed back on Square’s Caviar business. GrubHub shares have been dinged by rumors that Facebook is entering food delivery.
But Salzberg said that unlike a grocery store, which distributes food, he sees Blue Apron’s meal kits as proprietary products, sourced from Blue Apron farms and wineries. As more companies, including Amazon, promote online food shopping, Blue Apron could benefit, Salzberg said.
— CNBC’s Leslie Picker, Christine Wang and Reuters contributed to this report.
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