Blue Apron made headlines when they first announced their plans for an IPO. The company (trading as APRN.N on the NYSE) made its stock market debut the last week of June, and was the first company to go public in the meal kit industry in the United States. It’s a fast-growing market, and other meal kit services have expressed interest in going public, too. But expectations for Blue Apron fell short.
According to Reuters, the high reached $11 before settling back to trading at $10.12, lower than expected.
This may not have been the best time for a meal kit service to initiate an IPO, as it turns out. Online retail giant Amazon just announced its deal to buy Whole Foods Grocery, creating more uncertainty in an already competitive market. Amazon currently provides a grocery delivery service, making it easy for people to skip the hassle of shopping – a key benefit to ordering from meal kit service providers.
Now with the purchase of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Amazon has left investors and potential investors wondering about the meal kit industry going forward, and how Amazon’s food delivery system coupled with brick and mortar stores might have a significant impact.
Aside from the Amazon deal, there has been concern among investors and analysts about Blue Apron’s marketing costs and the company’s lack of profitability, too. Blue Apron had to spend 18% of its 2016 revenue on marketing, according to Reuters, mainly to keep customers’ attention.
Blue Apron used to require customers purchase a subscription for weekly meal kits, but now the company offers one-time meal deliveries to attract those who’ve fallen off. Other meal kit services grew their customer bases by offering one-time meal plans with no subscription obligation.
But still, meal kits are a tough industry. Blue Apron reported in its IPO filing that 90% of its customers fall off within the first year. “Assuming this trend continues, Blue Apron will have to acquire more than 4 million new customers, which is about 3 percent of American households, every year, just to break even,” DJ Kang, senior vice president at ValuePenguin, told Reuters.
Added to this challenge is the prospect of big food brands getting into the mix. Campbell’s has partnered with delivery service Chef’d, putting forth big bucks in investment to compete with companies like Blue Apron.
Blue Apron’s competitors are considering public offerings, too. Sun Basket, a meal kit delivery service that offers organic ingredients, has hired banks for an IPO that could take place later this year, according to Reuters. But with the unexpectedly lackluster IPO of Blue Apron and the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, it’s possible the company could reconsider.
Blue Apron stock was up 1% as of June 29th, according to Reuters.