Meal kits — subscription services that bring ready-to-cook dinners to home cooks — have intrigued the food blogging community over the last year and are now apparently gaining the attention of venture capital funds.
Last week, Blue Apron, a New York startup, secured $50 million in another round of funding, valuing the company at $500 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. The funding comes as GrubHub, the online leader in restaurant pick-up and delivery, recently had a wildly successful IPO.
Claiming to be "reinventing the grocery supply chain from the farm to the dinner table," Blue Apron said it now delivers over 600,000 meals per month to customers, up from 100,000 per month in August 2013. Subscribers pay $10 per meal, per person with the meals coming in two-, four-, and six-person portions. Six options are available weekly, with the current week featuring:
It offers only dinners. Subscribers typically get three meals a week for a party of two.
For subscribers, Blue Apron takes over the chore of planning and shopping and supports healthy eating. Its "experts" promise to find the best seasonal ingredients directly from farms, importers and family-run purveyors. They then offer exact measurements of the ingredients with easy-to-follow recipes for home cooks. A particular benefit is stimulating home cooks to experiment.
"They allow you to have a 'restaurant' quality meal at home for much less money, and you won't have to stock your pantry with unfamiliar spices that you might never use again," Keri Gans, R.D., author of "The Small Change Diet," told LearnVest of the overall meal kit subscription services.
For its part, Blue Apron claims to benefit by buying specific weekly ingredients in bulk without any going to waste.
Blue Apron faces competitors such as Plated.com, Chefday.com and many other start-ups across the country. For subscribers, recipes can be a challenge for finicky eaters since altering recipes can be complicated. Skeptics believe Blue Apron will eventually need to provide more than six options per week.
But Matt Salzberg, Blue Apron co-founder and CEO, believes his company is making home cooking accessible to everyone. He said in a statement related to the new funding, "We hear from customers daily that we're changing their lives — they're learning to cook with new ingredients and techniques, they're trying new cuisines, and they're spending more time in the kitchen having fun with family and friends."
Are meal kit subscription services more of an opportunity or threat for supermarkets?