A months ago, Blue Apron became the first meal kit service in the U.S. industry to go public. Unfortunately, it was bad timing on the part of the company. Instead of riding the so-called “pop” from the excitement of the stock offering, shares have been declining since they hit the market.
Blue Apron was originally going to offer its stock at $15-$17 per share when the IPO was made, but because the demand wasn’t as high as they expected, they dropped it to only $10. Most recently, the stock price closed even lower at $7.08 per share, but analysts have predicted it will drop even further. In fact, as website GrubStreet points out: “Wall Street is so pessimistic about Blue Apron right now that one firm, Northcoast Research, believes the $7 share price is not low enough.” Analysts there said that their valuation is at about $2 per share because of “severe cost challenges as well as a competitive set that is broadening and intensifying.”
It’s no secret Blue Apron’s IPO was bad timing. Two weeks prior, Amazon announced its deal to purchase Whole Foods. The online retail giant already has a popular grocery delivery service, and a well-oiled logistics network that allows the company to deliver products faster and cheaper than any other online retailer. Coupled with the appeal of Whole Foods’ organic offerings, the pair could shake up the meal kit industry through offering similar services with quality products at a better price.
The meal kit industry has certainly grown in the last few years, thanks in part to Blue Apron. People like the convenience of ordering the kits and cooking at home, rather than going out, which can be less healthy and more expensive. The problem Blue Apron faces is not with revenue generation or attracting new customers (which industry-wide seems to be growing), but with managing its expenses. Marketing expenses have concerned analysts all along. The company has never been profitable, and has spent ten times more money on marketing since 2014 in trying to compete with popular brands like Hello Fresh and newcomers like Chef’d and Sun Basket. It also adjusted its subscription service to allow more flexibility for customers, which can affect the bottom line.
Two years ago, Blue Apron was valued by investors at about $2 billion. The potential entry of an Amazon-Whole Foods alliance has made analysts and investors question this valuation now, affecting the company’s stock. It’s hard to say whether analysts are right in the $2 per share assessment, but Blue Apron has a tough road ahead to stay competitive in the industry, and to retain its market value.