Can 'Bob's Burgers'-themed meals help Blue Apron?
- Blue Apron has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to bring three burger recipes from Emmy-award winning TV show "Bob's Burgers" to its summer menu, according to a company release. The recipes were developed by Chef Alvin Cailan of Los Angeles restaurant Eggslut.
- The "Quantam of Salsa Burger" and the "Gouda Wife Burger" were featured on the most recent season of the animated TV series, and will be available in Blue Apron meal kits the weeks of July 23 and August 20, respectively. “The Absentee Shallot Burger" will premiere on the upcoming season of "Bob's Burgers," which is expected to air in late September. It will be available as a meal kit the week of September 17.
- “ 'Bob’s Burgers' has built a highly engaged and loyal fan base over the past eight years,” Christine Fu, head of partnerships at Blue Apron, said in the release. “In collaboration with the incredibly talented Chef Alvin Cailan, we look forward to bringing the creative and whimsical recipes that are featured on 'Bob’s Burgers' to life through the Blue Apron meal experience.”
Blue Apron seems to be hoping pop culture-centered meal kits will cement customer loyalty, which has been elusive and hard-won for the manufacturer since its launch in 2012. The "Bob's Burgers" deal isn't the beleaguered company's first venture into the entertainment space, either. In June, it announced a collaboration with model, cookbook author and Twitter personality Chrissy Teigen, with new meals available each week between June 4 and July 9. It's unclear how much Blue Apron is shelling out for these creative partnerships, but it begs the question: is this kind of on-trend publicity a recipe for increased market share, or another drain on its finances?
The meal kit maker reported that it spent 20% of its revenue ($39.3 million) on marketing in its first quarter of 2018, a decline from 25% ($60.6 million) in the year-ago period. The company also saw net revenue slide 20% to $196.7 during the quarter, which it attributed to a decrease in customers and and orders after cutting spending. Blue Apron reported that its customer base grew during the period, from 746,00 in Q4 2017 to 786,000 in Q1 2018, but this is still a far cry from the 1.04 million customers it had in Q1 2017.
The company has scrambled to right itself in the increasingly crowded and cutthroat meal kit market by expanding its touch points with shoppers. In May, the company announced it launched a pilot program with Costco to carry its meal kits and hopefully improve the brand's reach by boosting its convenience. It seem unlikely, however, that a partnership with just one retailer — even one as reputable as Costco — can make a meaningful impact.
Plus, as major retailers like Albertsons, Publix, Kroger and Walmart shoulder into the $5 billion space with meal kit partnerships or their own private label offerings, the short list of possible retail partners for Blue Apron continues to dwindle. And even if it did land a deal with a well-known grocer, it would still need to pour money into in-store marketing to differentiate from competitors and other grab-and-go options.
Blue Apron's biggest problem is German meal kit maker HelloFresh. It usurped Blue Apron's position as the nation's market leader in May, reporting a 68.9% increase to 1.2 million active U.S. customers over the last year. Much of this growth has come from HelloFresh's diversified offerings, ranging from 20-minute meals, a "one pot" cooking line and globally inspired options. The company also doubled down on its specialty offerings by buying Green Chef, a meal kit maker that specializes in gluten-free, paleo and keto meals.
Time will tell if Blue Apron's celebrity and television-inspired meals will prove to be as successful as HelloFresh's niche, diet-focused offerings. One thing is certain: the company will need to make meaningful changes to its operations and cost structure to keep pace with competitors, no matter how buzzy its partnerships are.
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