Blue Apron, the hugely popular meal kit startup, has had a rough couple of months. The company went public this summer in what was (in hindsight) incredibly bad timing, and since has struggled to keep its stock prices from falling.
Now, in an effort to appease frustrated investors, the company has shaken up its management team, announcing that co-founder Matt Wadiak will be stepping down from his role as C.O.O. to be a senior adviser at the company. Blue Apron’s V.P. of supply chain Tim Smith will also be promoted to S.V.P. of consumer products, reporting directly to C.E.O. Matt Salzberg.
Just before Blue Apron made its Wall Street offering, Amazon announced its plans to buy food giant Whole Foods grocery, sending shock waves and speculation among investors. The meal kit industry as a whole could see increased competition and price-cutting as Amazon paves the way for launching its own meal kit delivery service, capitalizing on its existing infrastructure and delivery system coupled with the reach and popularity of Whole Foods.
Blue Apron has faced stiff competition in its field even before the Amazon acquisition was announced. As new competitors offered lower prices and more flexibility in their plans, Blue Apron responded by making cuts to its meal kit pricing and offering one-time meals, instead of requiring customers sign up for a weekly subscription-based meal plan as it had before.
Unfortunately, Blue Apron’s management shakeup was bad timing after the disappointing IPO. Analysts at Oppenheimer and Goldman Sachs gave Blue Apron an $11 price target and a buy rating before the announcement, an increase from its original $10 opening price and a positive outlook for the company’s expected growth. The stock price surged as a result of the ratings, but didn’t last long. The stock dropped to trade at $7.50 when blue Apron announced Wadiak’s departure.
Competition from Amazon is still guesswork at this point, though speculation and industry uncertainty has definitely contributed to Blue Apron stock’s volatility. Analysts have pointed out to Vanity Fair that Blue Apron still has the advantage, because it was one of the first to market and is a brand giant in the meal kit service space. “There are a number of instances where the worst fears from the threat of Amazon’s potential entry into a vertical have failed to materialize,” SunTrust analyst Youssef Squali wrote.
But ultimately, investors hold the cards for the future of Blue Apron. We’ll see what they decide in the coming months, and keep an eye out for Amazon’s next move.