- Blue Apron’s culinary team and Airbnb Experiences have partnered to bring six weeks of international cuisine to home cooks, according to a press release.
- Each week from April 16 to May 21, Blue Apron customers on the two-person and family plan offerings can select from recipes inspired by Airbnb Experiences hosts in Paris, Florence, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Shanghai. Airbnb Experiences are excursions or other activities designed and led by local hosts.
- The six recipes are: Parisian steak frites with roasted broccoli and lemon aioli; Florentine roast pork and salsa verde with sautéed vegetables; Mexico City chicken tinga tostadas with avocado and refried beans; Buenos Aires beef empanadas with roasted sweet potatoes and creamy zucchini; Tokyo beef and rice Bowl with soft-boiled eggs and roasted broccoli; and Shanghai Kung Pao chicken with stir-fried snow peas and sweet peppers.
Will two prominent online consumer services coming together result in a promotional program that brings more visibility, sales and investor confidence? Blue Apron and Airbnb hope so.
Combining the brand equity of meal kit maker Blue Apron and travel juggernaut Airbnb is a way to bolster Blue Apron’s customer base and stock price and get more visibility for Airbnb Experiences, while further enhancing the Airbnb name as it expands its offerings. Blue Apron could have offered recipes like this on its own, but hopes the synergy with Airbnb will add to sales. If the promotion works, future synergies could be in the future, like offering Blue Apron meal kits to people using the core Airbnb lodging service.
While Monday's announcement caused a slight rally for the meal kit company, by early afternoon stock prices soon plunged to their lowest levels so far, trading at as low as $1.85 a share. Blue Apron closed at $1.96 on Monday.
Blue Apron is facing direct competition in the U.S. from HelloFresh, as well as from many retailer offerings including Albertsons-owned Plated, and proprietary meal kits from Kroger, Amazon and Walmart. While the Airbnb program may attract new customers to Blue Apron, the company will have to work to retain them either with superior products and service or incentives. Customer retention and distribution have been crucial challenges. The company has seen a drop-off in total customers and stock price, and now wants to sell its meal kits in stores.
Airbnb has no direct competition — at least none close to its size. However, the Airbnb Experiences offshoot, which it started last year, is off to a sluggish start, said The Wall Street Journal. Airbnb is preparing for a public offering as part of its expansion, but said it won’t be this year, according to the Express.
While Blue Apron has its challenges, one advantage is a now well-known brand name thanks to the big marketing spending it had to do to support its launch and expansion. Most people think of it as the archetypical meal delivery service. In an effort to sell its Harvest Box program for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared it to Blue Apron.
However, name recognition is not the same as profitability. While ethnic food may draw some new people to Blue Apron, these offerings by themselves don't seem like the game changer the meal kit company needs. As HelloFresh grows, its stated goal is becoming larger than U.S. meal kit leader Blue Apron, and HelloFresh appears on track to succeed. In earnings reports last week, HelloFresh, which is traded in its home country of Germany, said it was approaching breakeven status, investing money for customer retention both in marketing and technology to develop taste profiles.
Blue Apron needs to do something different to continue winning the race against HelloFresh — or at the very least keep itself solvent. It's not clear if this partnership is the answer, though it might be if expanded to providing meals to travelers using the lodging service.