- Blue Apron cut the expected price range on its IPO this morning to $10 to $11 per share — down a third from the $15 to $17 range the company posted last week, according to Reuters. The cut entails a valuation of $2 billion, rather than the $3.2 billion Blue Apron initially listed.
- The reduction comes amidst fears that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods could significantly impact the meal kit delivery business. Experts say a fully scaled e-commerce system through the two companies would dwarf meal kit delivery systems.
- Blue Apron will list its final price later today and is expected to debut on the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow.
In its IPO filing earlier this month, Blue Apron listed a valuation of $100 million. A few weeks later, the company raised that number dramatically to $510 million and said it was looking to sell 30 million shares at between $15 and $17 per share.
The increase underscored Blue Apron’s need to expand its operations and market share in an increasingly crowded meal kit category. But that growth comes at a price for the company with marketing costs, a decline in the amount customers spend per order, and competition from the grocery industry and elsewhere cutting into profits. Although Blue Apron’s net revenue grew from $78 million in 2014 to $795 million in 2016, its losses increased to $55 million last year from $31 million two years earlier.
The company has acknowledged these challenges and stated it has "a history of losses” and “may be unable to achieve or sustain profitability." It also noted risks to its business including foodborne illness, changes in consumer tastes or preferences and a "novel business model" that makes it hard to evaluate its future prospects and challenges.
Balancing investor concerns with market realities has proven difficult for Blue Apron, and its new valuation and stock pricing reflects a compromise between those two influences.
Even at the lower price investors will remain wary of Blue Apron’s long-term viability. During the last year, order frequency and the amount customers spend per order has decreased. The $94 Blue Apron spends to acquire each customer, meanwhile, has stayed consistent from 2014 to now. The company is putting more money toward marketing to stay visible amidst a sea of competitors.
The prospect of Amazon building a sprawling e-commerce presence also has investors concerned. Grocers like Kroger and Publix are running successful meal kit programs, showing delivery services don’t have a monopoly on customer demand in the space. Amazon, which currently carries a limited assortment of meal kits through its site, could expand its offerings and list them at lower prices than Blue Apron, HelloFresh and others.
Blue Apron investors will be betting on some point in the future when the clouds will lift and the company cashes in on its leading market share. What the company really needs, experts note, is a core group of high-spending customers. This is certainly possible, but given its recent losses, it's difficult to picture right now.