Will Alexa get customers cooking with Blue Apron?

Discussion
Photo: BusinessWire/Blue Apron
Jan 05, 2022

When users of Amazon’s Echo Show smart display device want to order a meal kit from Blue Apron, the task is simple enough. And now, if they need instruction preparing the meal, they can ask Alexa for help.

Late last year the meal kit company partnered with Alexa to make a selection of offerings available for order through Echo Show devices without a subscription, according to a press release. Additionally, any Alexa user can now leverage the voice assistant-based step-by-step cooking instructions for Blue Apron’s two-meal and four-meal recipes. Blue Apron plans to expand its partnership with Alexa throughout 2022 as part of a plan to double its number of partners overall.

In the years after its 2012 founding, Blue Apron became a much talked about darling of the then fledgling meal kit space. Enthusiasm for the company waned, however, as more entrants entered the field and consumer interest for the sometimes pricey kits cooled. The brand had its initial public offering in June of 2017 and, by December of 2018, was trading below $1 per share, with investors registering concerns over high marketing costs and customer churn, according to CNBC.

Blue Apron and meal kits in general experienced a bump in adoption in 2020, as the pandemic confined people nationwide to their homes.

Before the unexpected pandemic tailwind, Blue Apron was already trying to partner its way to a new customer base. In 2019, the brand announced a partnership with WW, Inc., formerly Weight Watchers International, Inc., to collaborate on meal kits suited to the WW Freestyle program. Blue Apron told The Washington Post that the move marked a shift away from “acquiring customers one at a time.”

Amazon Alexa has been playing a growing role in people’s household habits as the tech giant has begun embedding the cloud-based voice assistant in devices such as coffee makers and air fryers.

Customers have not, however, been adopting the tool for making purchases at the rate once anticipated, with experts pointing to the lack of a screen as the cause for hesitance. This may explain why the Echo Show, Amazon’s screen-enabled Alexa device, was the one chosen to enable customers to purchase Blue Apron meal kits à la carte.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will the recipe guidance and one-off ordering via Alexa benefit Blue Apron’s business? What will Blue Apron and other meal kit providers need to do to maintain the sales momentum created over the past two years, once the pandemic has subsided?

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8 Comments on "Will Alexa get customers cooking with Blue Apron?"


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Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I am not convinced that ordering from the Echo Show is the best use case for Blue Apron. Almost by definition, the ideal use case is hands-free recipe support while you’re already in the kitchen cooking with the ingredients you need. At that point, ordering ingredients is a replenishment task, which thus far has not gained much traction in kitchen tech. Where there would be greater value for Blue Apron, in my opinion, would be to integrate into the recipe discovery process. Just as Amazon’s Echo lineup struggles with product discovery, they offer very little value in recipe discovery. I suspect Blue Apron would be better served by partnerships with popular and brand-aligned cooking blogs like Cookie and Kate, one of my personal and highly reliable favorites with a big audience.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust
As much as I like this idea, Blue Apron and other meal kits come with pretty easy-to-follow recipes printed on a card stock easy to reference in the kitchen. If someone has an Echo Show and the steps can sit on screen until you tell Alexa to flip, I can see some utility. As for the one-off ordering, when you tell Alexa to order Blue Apron, not needing a subscription is nice but you still have to browse recipes. I would argue that’s easier on a phone, tablet, etc. In all of this, I don’t know what Blue Apron provides that others can’t easily duplicate, thus rendering Blue Apron obsolete. I think that meal kits are here to stay. Retailers have added them to stores, either to inspire recipe ideas or to get shoppers to buy the kits. As grocery (and other) retailers get more sophisticated with digital ordering and branding, meal kits seem a viable alternative to restaurant via dine-in or delivery. The retail marketers also need to do some work with the value… Read more »
Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I don’t see Alexa having a major impact on Blue Apron’s revenue honestly. As far as assistance with Blue Apron’s prep, I don’t see it. The instructions in the box are really easy to follow. As far as ordering à la carte, I do think there will be some takers, but not at scale.

One of the issues I see for Blue Apron and others is stickiness. I would like to learn more about how long customers stay with program and how many, my household included, have used the services for a while, found a some recipes they like, and then just add the ingredients to their weekly shopping list. They bypass the up-charge for the meal in the box, and the accompanying waste from all the cardboard and packaging these meals tend to ship in.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Doesn’t Blue Apron already send illustrated recipes? Now we need a video via Alexa to show us what to do? That’s a lot for pre-measured, minimal ingredient meals. Providing how-to videos will be a huge undertaking for Blue Apron.

Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

It is unclear whether Alexa integration will generate incremental customers for Blue Apron. The cost of customer acquisition for meal kit services is generally high, and an Alexa user base may seem tempting, but the use-case scenario seems limited. Consumers have other resources they use more habitually to answer the “what’s for dinner tonight” question. And as for cooking support, as others point out – existing recipe cards are pretty straightforward which probably limits the need for verbal step-by-step instructions.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The problem with the Blue Apron business model is churn. After a month of Blue Apron customers conclude they can do it themselves. Instead of providing a product of convenience, they are teaching people how to cook and essentially negating their reason for being.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

Spot on observation – the biggest challenge is churn and remaining relevant to the individual subscriber.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

This is clearly a tactical move born out of a necessity to reach as many consumers as possible. For the “cook” that appreciates convenience, healthy meals and is willing to pay a premium for it – this segment will remain viable. Inflation at the grocery store narrows the premium one pays for Blue Apron or Sunbasket among others in the space. Finding partners as content resources and sponsorships to add value to the relationship is a more sustainable tactic to engender affinity and build up overall satisfaction that leads to retention/combats attrition.

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