- Online meal kit company Blue Apron is partnering with podcast specialist Gimlet Media to launch a podcast series called "Why We Eat What We Eat," according to Fast Company. The podcast debuts Oct. 11 and will be hosted by cookbook author and food blogger Cathy Erway.
- Instead of yet another program about cooking, Blue Apron and Erway will explore the “anthropology” of some of the nation’s biggest food trends. Episode topics on the docket include kale’s skyrocketing popularity, what makes a picky eater and the potluck dinner as an American institution.
- The “goal is to tell stories that will resonate with people who have never turned on their ovens as much as with professional food bloggers,” Gimlet Media’s deputy creative director Frances Harlow told Fast Company. She explained that Blue Apron wants to differentiate from available food podcasts and the "foodie" culture that some listeners could find intimidating.
Launching a podcast is an intriguing marketing strategy for Blue Apron, and is likely intended to capture an audience of young urbanites. This could be a savvy way to deepen the meal kit experience for consumers, especially since the majority of buyers use the service to broaden their food and cooking education.
The ethos of "Why We Eat What We Eat" also builds on a marketing campaign that Blue Apron launched last January, designed to educate prospective consumers about what meal kits are and how the company's offer will change the way America buys food. This consistency, combined with the company's status as the top-selling online provider in the $5 billion meal kit business, bodes well for the podcast's potential.
Still, it’s questionable if now is the best time to invest in an audio series. The news of Blue Apron spending more money on a marketing tactic with a largely unknown ROI will probably raise more than a few eyebrows among industry pundits and financial analysts. After all, the meal kit company has had its fair share of trials and tribulations since going public in June. Less than a month after its IPO, Blue Apron co-founder and COO Matt Wadiak stepped down. In August, the company instituted a temporary hiring freeze and fired part of its recruiting team.
Blue Apron already spends enormous amounts of money convincing consumers to try its services. The company itself warned in its prospectus of the possibility that it may never post a profit due to changing consumer preferences and the high cost of acquiring and retaining customers. Its marketing expenses increased 180% last year, well outpacing revenue gains of 133%. This kind of upside-down business model is not sustainable over the long run.
On top of the company’s internal issues, meal kit competition is getting stiffer too, which could temper Blue Apron’s outlook. The company is now up against the likes of big CPG brands and leading grocers — Kroger and Publix among them — entering the meal kit space. Just a few weeks ago, Albertsons announced it was buying meal kit company Plated, and Walmart is going to start featuring meal kits from a variety of companies on its website beginning in December.
Amazon is making noise in the meal kit space, too. Earlier this year, the retail giant teamed with Martha Stewart to launch two-person meal kits called “Martha & Marley Spoon through AmazonFresh.” The company has since filed a trademark application for prepared food kits via its Amazon Technologies unit, and started selling them in limited release. It remains to be seen what can be achieved once Amazon brings Whole Foods into the fold.
Consumer research findings don't bode well for Blue Apron and its online meal kit delivery counterparts, either. Research from Field Agent shows that many consumers want to purchase meal kits in the grocery store, not online. All told, it’s hard to tell if something like a podcast will move the needle for Blue Apron. Even if listeners find the podcast engaging, it won't necessarily convince them to invest in a Blue Apron subscription — or stick with it if they decide to give it a try.