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Blue Apron lays off more workers (wsj.com)
156 points by crunchlibrarian 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 330 comments



Can't help but feel like Blue Apron and its competitors are the next generation of Groupon and its competitors. Burnt through VC funding competing with each other only to find out the actual market for their product isn't that great.

But thanks for all the free trials, VC investors! I've had a few above average dinners out of it.


I think a bigger problem which these services don't get is that if you live in a reasonably sized city then you will have a huge range of takeaway/delivery food options.

The amount of people who want to cook and prepare a nice meal is probably a lot less than the amount of people who just want to buy, eat and enjoy a nice meal.

I live in Dublin, not exactly the biggest of cities, but I can't think of a single type of food that I can't order through one of the various home delivery apps available to me. No need to cook food or be constrained by a predetermined set of menus.

It's hard to make the case for a meal in a box service when you can order just about any food imaginable from your phone and it will be delivered within 30 minutes.


It's bordering on out-of-control in some U.S. cities. About six months ago, I briefly stopped while in the middle of cleaning our apartment and realized the majority of our 'trash' was food delivery detritus. We've been spending $500-$700 a month on food delivery this year, and I only see that increasing in the future.

I can regularly obtain a $1 (sometimes less) delivery fee by selecting among Uber Eats/GrubHub/DoorDash/etc. The pricing blood-bath between restaurants (and delivery companies) combined with convenience-induced laziness has me doing nutty things like order a $6 froyo from a place ~100 meters away.

Speaking of Blue Apron, I recently threw out half of an unopened meal kit of theirs that convenience-induced laziness had caused to rot away in the fridge.

The delivery trend is strong. Not sure it's a net positive society-wide habit.


Cooking is hard, requires a lot of hardware to do, and is an acquired skill that takes a lot of blunt learning of a lot of minute details about how certain ingredients interact.

In the same way you don't ask everyone to learn to repair car engines or diagnose medical issues modern society puts a lot of pressure on specialization of hard work like cooking.

That being said the true optimization would be that most people be content to eat in cafeteria style settings where there are limited options and the chefs are using whatever is freshest and most affordable and availability is fixed (even if you just grab and go with the food). There is a trade off between menu diversity, the prices you pay for it, and how good it can actually be where 16+ hour open restaurants with several page menus (including fast food) are making concessions on freshness / shortcuts in preparation to provide their diversity and availability.

I think a lot of this relates to how we are in a transnational period for density. In the coming decades I am almost certain we will trend globally towards packing people into apartment / condo style living in city cores because the trends of sprawl and mcmansion single families that are going to be inherited by unmarried or childless descendants without the incomes to support them falls apart. Right now trying to build up a "local" kitchen you can go to three times a day for regular, good, healthy and diverse meals isn't feasible because the density isn't there to get them to walkable convenience, but I hope rising density makes them a possibility.

At those kinds of scales it becomes a technical probability we might just get short range delivery drones where the kitchens advertise via app or notification whats on the menu and you just select what you want and a lil bot brings it to you a la room service but optimized in the aforementioned ways to make it more sustainable.


> Cooking is hard, requires a lot of hardware to do

I think this is completely false and it's unfortunate that people have this perception of cooking. Yes, it's true that if you want to be able to cook all the sorts of food you're used to having delivered, a lot of skill and hardware is probably required. However, you can cook a lot of great, tasty meals with a single pot and pan and a few inexpensive utensils and limited skill required. I think some of the biggest challenges to more people cooking at home is that it will always take more time than ordering.


Completely agree. When I had to move to a different country to study, I did not know even how to brew tea (cooking never interested me), let alone cooking a decent meal. However, the craving for the food from my home country (which wasn't readily available near my campus) coupled with the financial constraint of not being able to eat outside for every meal (if you want good quality food that is) forced me to learn cooking. It started with simple things at first but now (more than a decade later) it is one of my hobbies and I find it meditative almost.

If you are forced to do it, you will do it. Besides, regarding the learning curve, it feels similar to going to the gym for the first time in your life. Initially you will see a lot of newbie gains (never knew I could make eatable food) which later plateau unless you want to reach the next level.


Agreed on the hardware requirements. I love to cook and have an extensive range of very expensive pots/pans/utensils with very specific uses, but in the beginning I had very few. I also still only use a few of them most of the time.

You can do almost everything with a 12" skillet/frying pan, a large sauce pan (4 qt maybe since you probably want to cook pasta in it), and one of those sets of 3-6 utensils (you don't even need that many) if you are cooking for 1-4.


And a kitchen/kitchen corner. I think what the parent is suggesting is that apartments wouldn't have kitchens at all, and you would eat at communal cafeteria. I believe this is what the vast majority of city dwellers in imperial rome would do?


Or in places like the USA, not that long ago.

Y'know how, in old movies, single people would live in single-room apartments, often with a Murphy bed that played a part in some amount of slapstick humor? They weren't cooking in there - dinner was served downstairs.


Yes -- boarding houses. It was expected that your rent would include at least an evening meal shared with the other residents. And like with many university dorms today, it was against the rules to cook in your rooms.


I still see them advertised everywhere in India: PGs (public guesthouses?)


I agree on the time it can take, but the skills element crops up a lot. That doesn't seem to be as big a problem when people have engaged in cooking as a child, or through a home economics class. As society changes there will probably be a bigger skills gap.

For me the most important skill is scoping. If I can scope the meal to something inside my skill range I can complete it competently and on a reasonable timeline. I can also choose when I want to push my bounds and allow extra time, or perhaps buy some extra ingredient in case I make a mistake. I think a lot of people don't have the skills and experience to do this and as a result the experience is negative. I can now look at recipes and analyze them reasonably accurately.

Things can be a challenge at different stages:

* Plan what to cook (Do I have the right tools? do I have ingredients I can use? Can I substitute something for this one odd ingredient? Do I need to go out of my way or will my regular grocery store have everything?)

* Acquire ingredients (They don't have something. What substitute is readily available?)

* Prep ingredients (Mostly this is just monotonous, but technique can play a part. Good quality basic tools like knives can make a difference. A more skilled person will be thinking about how to get the cooking step started at this point.)

* Cooking (Skill and experience prevent annoyances like things sticking, cooking too fast, burning etc. Many beginners can't get enough context from many recipes. If you didn't choose a meal that you had all the hardware for do you have alternatives? Should have been caught at the planning stages, but the inexperienced can miss something.)

* Cleanup (It drives me crazy to see this happen only at the end, and for the surfaces and sink to covered in items that need cleanup. A mountain of effort at the end can be unpleasant, especially if you are asking someone else to cleanup and they can't even get into the sink.)


Something I'd love to see as we move towards higher density urban living (in more US cities) is communal kitchens in apartments. On par with a gym.

It's ridiculous to have kitchen hardware * apartments, with abysmal utilization rates.

Throw some long benches and tables in there for people to eat if they want to. Good floorplan. Have bring your own wine Wednesdays or whatever.

The biggest misalignment in home cooking is scaling. It's trivial to make 6+ portions instead of 1-2. And often cheaper per portion.

Yes, there are challenges (dishes, cleaning), but nothing reasonable adults shouldn't be able to surmout (or lose kitchen rights).


"Something I'd love to see as we move towards higher density urban living (in more US cities) is communal kitchens in apartments. On par with a gym."

There used to be something called a 'dining club' -in the Anglosphere it mostly descended from Oxbridge student dining clubs (some were regimental dining clubs). Various social clubs in the 1800s Anglosphere descended from these sorts of things. I used to belong to one; the Berkeley City Club. In addition to providing maybe hundreds of people with the services of a professional chef, it provides something not appreciated in the modern day, with people staring at their phones: an actual social circle, and a place to go after work that isn't a bar.

These sorts of things used to be quite common, and formed the nucleus of many political associations and movements, but they became less popular with the social atomization of the 1960s.


I left the shared dorm kitchen behind when I graduated university. I prefer not to go back. I'd rather my kitchen be my own. Have you lived in a shared communal space where everyone uses the space but no one takes the time to clean? Try reigning those people in for me. No thanks.

Cooking to scale is also not a problem if you know what you're doing in the kitchen. Smaller kitchens and a lack of proper hardware can make cooking more challenging, but it's super easy to scale a recipe up and store away the extra portions. There are entire communities dedicated to meal prep tips and strategies.

It more comes down to training and time for most people, not a lack of hardware.


Yep. Communal pots & pans will be very abused and not cleaned after something was burned or scorched in them.


Totally agree. After watching what the poor admins at our company have to go through weekly just to keep the office fridge from having abandoned rotting food in it to getting everyone to load their used coffee cups in the dishwasher (and this is at an office where people arguably are on their best behavior at work!) I would NOT want to live somewhere with a shared kitchen.


> Have you lived in a shared communal space where everyone uses the space but no one takes the time to clean? Try reigning those people in for me.

Yes and yes. Successfully.

Being part of a community takes communication and negotiation.

Without that, we might as well all be living in the suburbs.


As someone who lived in a warehouse with at least 20 other people for a decade of my life - this is not as great an idea, long-term, as it first appears.

I used to think in terms of communal efficiencies (hence moving into a warehouse), but that idealism was quickly abated by the realities of living with other humans, most of whom it turns out, are broadly selfish and inherently lazy.


> As someone who lived in a warehouse with at least 20 other people for a decade of my life

not going to lie, this is a story that I'd love to hear more about. I've been thinking more about the co-living/co-working space these days, and a kind of a warehouse commune idea too.


> It's ridiculous to have kitchen hardware * apartments, with abysmal utilization rates.

The problem is common work/school/etc. schedules mean that the bulk of the utilization is at the same time; there isn't a lot to be gained by sharing unless you are in a quasi-executive commune, where a shared kitchen (and other living space) is already a norm.

If you want more people to choose to live in communes, good luck.


Missed the edit window, but that was intended to be “quasi-family communes”, not “quasi-executive”; mobile autocorrect is great at turning typos into radically different words.


Wow, HN commenters really hate other people.


because 3 people said they don't think it is a good idea?


5-1 negative opinions of other adults being able to clean dishes, at the time I'm writing this.

It wouldn't have struck me, except I named that very concern in my initial comment, and that many people still felt it's the first thing they should inform me of.

Most of us had experiences in college, but yeesh: I like to think everyone's grown as humans since their dorm days.


Yeah, cooking was hard for me because I had zero experience doing it. After successfully doing a couple recipes pulled online it doesn't seem remotely hard anymore. Tedious, maybe, but not hard, and there are plenty of recipes that produce huge quantities of food for very little effort, slow cooker and one-pot or whatever those pressure cookers are called being at the top of my list.


The thing is we aren't talking about writing "I can cook" on a tinder profile type cooking, we are talking about being able to replace a majority of that take out with cooking at home.

And I'm not talking about it being expensive in how everyone needs a Sous Vide. Cooking properly requires some things a lot of people don't have like access to a stove. If you take the bare necessities - which I would argue are a chefs knife for chopping, sauce pan, frying pan, a single burner hot plate, and probably you really want some form of oven, even if its just a convection.

Just those alone is several hundred dollars for even the most scrapyard worthy picks. Maybe you can get lucky and happen in to some deals. But probably the greatest premium is space - a lot of kids growing into the "don't ever cook" mentality are sacrificing having kitchen space whatsoever in their multi-tenant living arrangements and thus have no where to go with all this stuff.

And operating with such limiting tooling in my experience makes cooking feel hugely restrictive. Its already bad enough to be endeavoring to put in the work to make something yourself, but to consider it flawed from the outset because you don't have a pizza stone for your homemade pizza where your oven can't even reach a consistent 200c you easily deflate ones interest in learning it.

And saying its easy is also bad for anyone trying it out. It makes them feel worthless when they do struggle to dice vegetables the first hundred times until you develop the knack for it, or can't flip an omelette properly and end up with scrambled eggs. Because people on the Internet kept saying it was so easy.

Theres putting ham on bread and calling it a meal and theres the ability to take the bounty of nature and create a sensation that nothing else can produce out of it. If you tell people its satisfactory to just do the former and thats good enough you shouldn't be surprised when they stop trying and go out to eat all the time because they want the later. And there is no shortcut there - I constantly strive to cook new things because I want to get better at it and have for a decade now, and I like to push myself in making complicated dishes to experience new things, but I'd never ever risk someones intrigue in the culinary arts by saying its easy.


I was assuming that the majority of people have access to a stove and oven as I've always had even in the most low-budget living arrangements I've had as a student. Definitely without that, it does become more challenging.

> I'd never ever risk someones intrigue in the culinary arts by saying its easy.

I'm sure that's true from some. But the opposite could be true for others. I think saying it's easy as an isolated statement is pretty useless (note that I never said cooking was easy). However, I think rebuffing statements that cooking is hard coupled with pointers to easy dishes (which I admittedly didn't provide) are a good antidote.

Personally, I love to invite into my kitchen those I know who think cooking is too hard to try to equip them to believe otherwise :)


I wouldn't say it's hard. But it does have certain requirements that just aren't universally appealing.


True. I don't expect that everyone will enjoy cooking. But I think it's unfortunate that the myth that cooking is hard continues to be perpetuated. (I'll admit the statement it's a myth could be considered an opinion, but I still think cooking is easier than it's often made out to be.)


Having to learn cooking skills is definitely a factor (some say it should be taught at school) but speaking only for myself I actually know how to cook half-decently, I have the hardware and I'm in the same boat as the parent: I order and/or take away most meals during the week. It's not a lot more expensive that cooking yourself and it's a lot quicker and more convenient. When I get home from a day's work I often can't be bothered to spend even 30 minutes cooking and cleaning. Now I mainly cook on weekends when I have the time to do things right and I can actually enjoy it.

I too wonder if overall it's a bad habit (socially and environmentally) that I should try to change or if it's just a reasonable and efficient way to get food in the 21st century.


I'm glad that I didn't have to scroll too far to find someone raising the environmental question.. I think the problem here is delivery/containers

I live not too far from a very good couscous restaurant, and the tradition among the maghrebi matriarchs is to come to get takeaway with their own pots. I've picked up on the habit and it's a really good compromise - minimum eoclogical impact, delicious food, in the comfort of your own home (useful when you have babies)


>It's not a lot more expensive than cooking yourself

What?!?!

I get the feeling your definition of "not a lot more expensive" is a lot more inclusive than mine.

Obviously cost of home cooking vs prepared depends a lot on where you'd eat out and what you'd make for yourself but in my experience fast food off the value menu is about the only thing that's close to cost competitive with cooking for yourself. I would have to eat almost exclusively organic and add a lot of wild non-frozen seafood to my diet if I wanted to make the cost of preparing my own meals close to the cost of buying Chipotle/Five Guys quality prepared food. Maybe the numbers are different for people who shop at Whole Foods or otherwise go out of their way to increase the cost of groceries but your statement that eating out is close to cost competitive with cooking for yourself seems like it's from another universe.


Well I should've mentioned that I live in Paris. Obviously if where you are you can get groceries for cheap then I'm sure you can easily beat the restaurants. Buying fruit, vegetables and meat/fish in small shops in Paris can be ridiculously expensive. Restaurants generally buy in bulk from vendors outside of Paris with much more reasonable prices.

Cooking would probably still end up being cheaper in most cases but not by a huge margin. But then again Paris might not be very typical in that regard, food is notoriously expensive here.


>Obviously cost of home cooking vs prepared depends a lot on where you'd eat out

Given that most delivery services have a minimum, it's pretty difficult to spend less than $15-20 to get your food delivered.

In my experience, it's about $2-4/meal to cook, $12-15/meal to eat out, and $20+/meal to get delivery. Imagine that over a year. If you're cooking at $4/meal vs eating out at $12/meal, that's ~$3000 over a year!

On the other hand, you are paying for convenience and some people are willing (and able) to shoulder that cost.


To play devil's advocate, if you factor in the cost of your time, I would expect home cooking to be extremely expensive for most of the people posting here.


20 minute mental break to prepare some food is a great way to keep energized for more work.

A game changer for me has been a high quality rice cooker. Put rice or quinoa in the cooker as soon as I wake up and my at my “lunch break” I prepare some other stuff, eat and get back to work. I work from home all day generally.


Only if you count cooking to be work.


I completely agree! I think you need to differentiate monday evening family cooking with a nice relaxing recipe on a saturday afternoon for friends


I'm not sure why you're being downvoted, I think you're completely right. From an ecological and time efficiency perspective, these "communal cantines" make far more sense than every apartment needing a fitted kitchen, and every family needing to cook.


I disagree about efficiency. I remember living in the dorms, where the communal kitchen was present, less than 100 feet from my room, and well-stocked with equipment.

To use it, you have to transport your ingredients there, trust that the pots and pans were cleaned by the previous users, trust that no-one else is using it at the same time, trust that everything is currently functional, do the cooking, and transport the food back, or store your food there and hope no-one steals it.

The dorm kitchen only had 1 set of equipment (1 oven, 1 fridge, etc). Considering that most people in an apartment scenario would be prepping their main meals around the same time (dinner after work), there would have to be many sets of equipment so they could run in parallel. There would be little gain from shared equipment if you still needed ~5 sets for 10 families instead of 10 sets for 10 families. Also, if you have any specialty equipment (ice cream maker, wok, favorite stainless steel pans, any number of things) you either have to lock it up in the communal kitchen, transport it every time you use it, or just use it on-site in home.

The efficiency of a communal kitchen is too predicated on trust and good maintenance by the community or landlording organization. In practice, it limits people to simpler meals with less prep. It will rarely match the efficiency of individual kitchens.


Sorry I wasn't clear - By communal cantine I meant someone else is cooking. Like a work or school cantine


We had something close... but it folded as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Suppers


Not everything in life is about efficiency. While we’re at it everyone could sleep in barracks like spaces. Very efficient.


I agree, but at some point compromises are going to have to be made. Our current way of living is just not sustainable


There are far greater issues at stake before we need to remove kitchens from people's houses and implement public canteens. Plastic, palm oil, excessive meat consumption, proliferation of cars, climate change etc. etc.


The problem isn't home cooking, the problem is take away, inefficiently packaged groceries, and avoidable car journeys for food delivery or shopping. I think these are exactly the types of issues that can be solved! Shops that allow you to use your own containers, the return of grocery vans, communal kitchens and/or canteens for when you dont have time to cook...


> communal kitchens and/or canteens for when you dont have time to cook

That's kind of what restaurants are now, along with takeout.


You should write dystopian fiction. Also cooking doesn’t need to be hard or complicated. It can be but doesn’t need to be.


> There is a trade off between menu diversity, the prices you pay for it, and how good it can actually be where 16+ hour open restaurants with several page menus (including fast food) are making concessions on freshness / shortcuts in preparation to provide their diversity and availability.

While it might seem not intuitive it is actually 100% incorrect. Larger menus command smaller prices and shittier food, which is why all excellent restaurants converge on very small menus ( not more than 1 page ).

Places with large menus typically are diners, casual sit down restaurants and ethnic pre-gentrification places. Large menu non-chain restaurants are likely to have low grades from the health departments and use produce and proteins on the verge of spoiling. To compensate for that such places tend to have low prices.


Thats what I said? Its a three way tradeoff between diversity, availability, and quality. If you want one you sacrifice the others. The best way for most people to eat sustainable good food on the regular is to eat on a schedule (when chefs can make it fresh) with a limited selection (whats seasonally available).


> true optimization would be that most people be content to eat in cafeteria style settings

interesting you say this -- I've been thinking along similar lines. I've been calling it "banquet style" restaurants : scheduled menu (crowd votes/RSVPs); pay by subscription (?), very reasonable prices (due to menu optimization), make the environment an interesting social/network/meetup experience; beer/wine/cocktails are extra and high margin...


Your concerns about cooking are actually part of what makes Blue Apron attractive:

- their recipes are not too hard and instructions are generally carefully sequenced and clear

- their hardware requirements are generally quite limited


> Cooking is hard

I strongly disagree here. Or rather, I disagree that one sort of cooking is hard, and that's "normal" everyday cooking. Cooking restaurant dishes is probably hard, but that's fine because you probably don't want restaurant food every day. I certainly don't.

Sure, if you've never done it before it may seem difficult, especially if your expectations are that you're going to be eating something equivalent to takeout or restaurant meals, but it's easy to get started as long as you keep it simple. For instance the following 5 dishes are all pretty simple to make, the pasta dishes can all be made within 20 minutes with practice too. I've made all of these (except the carbonara) within the last week.

- Tomato and Basil or Parsely pasta (I leave out the mozzarella): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eabecxMhJlE

- Proper Carbonara: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/gennaro-s-...

- Coq au vin (easy, but takes a while): https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/books/the-delia-collecti...

- Pasta with prawns: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/spaghetti-...

- Three summer antipasti: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/06/antipas...

> requires a lot of hardware to do

Again, disagree. I could make all of those dishes with two pans, one knife and a wooden spoon, all cheap. There is a lot of kitchen equipment out there, and better quality stuff will make your life better, but for most stuff YAGNI. Spiraliser? YAGNI. More than 5 knives* ? YAGNI. Stand mixer? YAGNI. etc. etc.

* I could survive with one knife, though I regularly use about 3. You don't need to spend a lot, my favourite knife was about $25.

I think a good rule of buying kitchen equipment would mirror the rules of optimisation:

1. Don't buy it

2. Don't buy it

3. Maybe buy it if you repeatedly find it would make your life easier/food better.

> is an acquired skill that takes a lot of blunt learning

I'm not sure what you mean by blunt learning, but sure, you learn over time just like anything else, but if you start out simple (avocado on toast: good bread, good avocado, salt, pepper, olive oil) and work from there you can start winning in the kitchen straight away. This isn't a process where you produce crap for a few years before you suddenly start making something edible at year three. Work up to the complex stuff.

> a lot of minute details about how certain ingredients interact

Again, start out simple. Follow simple recipes (Jamie Oliver's Italian cook book is a pretty decent starter). You learn how ingredients interact over time as you're doing it, especially if you're thinking while you're cooking.

It's pretty rare (unless you're massively over stretching your abilities) to create something inedible, so as your experience and confidence grows you can experiment with flavours more with little consequence. For instance the other day I threw in some rosemary I had sitting around into my bread dough. It didn't work, but the loaf was still totally edible, and it got eaten. It was OK, just not great.

> In the same way you don't ask everyone to learn to repair car engines or diagnose medical issues modern society puts a lot of pressure on specialization of hard work like cooking.

No, but you can certainly change the wipers on your car or self-prescribe over the counter painkillers. Start simple.

Tips:

- Start simple

- Buy quality ingredients where you can. Buy flavourless tomatoes, your food will be bad. Cheap beef in a burger? Bad burger.

- Buy and make what you need. Don't try to make restaurant portions, especially with good ingredients, you'll go bankrupt. 85g of pasta might not seem like an actual adult portion, but it really is enough.

- Yagni. Don't buy equipment unless you really worked out you need it.

- Learn when celebrity chefs are mucking about with simple food to make it seem more complex, they all do it. Learning to recognise the unecessary flourishes will make stuff simpler.

- Practice. You will fail, you learn from it, but at least you can eat the failures. Most of the time.

- If it tastes good it is good


I'm speaking as someone who is neither a professional chef but one who has cooked homemade meals a majority of my adult life for myself and family when I say its hard.

Its hard because its not a sustainable place to put someone in to tell them they should be cooking more and then telling them to only cook the relatively limited palette presented as "entry level cooking". Probably the greatest turn off Ive ever seen to anyone aspiring to make their own meals is when they go for a month making everything themselves without ever having tasted a luxirious pan fond from the things they made because they both always played it safe and second were limited in their tooling to what they can make.

Its more endemic of a more general problem of people wanting results now, that if something doesn't result in instant success that its not for them. It took me a hundred hours of chopping and flipping pans to become good at it. If I hand a novice my knife it will take them three times longer to make larger cut diced vegetables because they have never done it before. Probably the best example is how long it takes to manage to flip omelettes out of pans without breaking them. It takes a while to do that! Its not easy!

And I recognize I'm a total amateur. I'm not some professional chef. Those guys are truly amazing. They make art out of the same tools I have. What they do is an incredible job. A hard job. It took them years to master their craft, and its disingenuous to them to say its so easy.

I just think the popular messaging of "just start cooking, its so easy if you just do only the basics"! Ends up causing way more harm than admitting that getting good at it to where you can confidently get up in the morning and not even think about eating out because you can make something you want at home if you want to is a time consuming and hard process. Sending signals about it being easy just makes someone wake up a few months down the road wondering why they still suck so much at it because everyone told them it would be so easy, but what they make to their palette still cannot compare to the diversity they want and get from eating out all the time so they stop trying. I just personally see that happen all the time in my peer group.


I'm not and never have been a professional chef either.

> Its hard because its not a sustainable place to put someone in to tell them they should be cooking more and then telling them to only cook the relatively limited palette presented as "entry level cooking".

Rubbish. There's nothing wrong with simple food, and the variety is huge. It's not intrinsically worse than "complicated" food.

> Probably the greatest turn off Ive ever seen to anyone aspiring to make their own meals is when they go for a month making everything themselves without ever having tasted a luxirious pan fond from the things they made because they both always played it safe and second were limited in their tooling to what they can make.

Nonesense. If you go for a month making food that tastes good without deglazing the pan then you ate food that tastest good. Deglazing the pan is just one technique in the reportoire of any cook or chef, home or otherwise and you don't suddenly go from dissapointing food to good food once you learn that one technique.

> Its more endemic of a more general problem of people wanting results now that if something doesn't result in instant success that its not for them.

That has nothing to do with how hard it is to cook good food at home.

> It took me a hundred hours of chopping and flipping pans to become good at it.

Yeah, it takes practice to become good at anything. It took me a while to learn to tie my shoelaces when I was a kid, but I didn't give up and pay for a communal shoe tieing service. The advantage to learning to cook is that you can become proficient enough (lots of recipes are dirt simple to follow) to start making stuff that's good in a short amount of time.

> If I hand a novice my knife it will take them three times longer to make larger cut diced vegetables because they have never done it before.

Yep, so? My kids are way slower in the kitchen than me. Speed isn't everything. Getting faster comes with practice, but an onion chopped slowly doesn't taste worse than one chopped fast.

> Probably the best example is how long it takes to manage to flip omelettes out of pans without breaking them. It takes a while to do that! Its not easy!

For some reason I am crap at omlettes, even after many years of cooking. But you know what? That two or three piece omlette that ended up on my plate is still edible and still tastes good. You don't have to produce perfect looking food with excellent technique.

> And I recognize I'm a total amateur. I'm not some professional chef. Those guys are truly amazing. They make art out of the same tools I have. What they do is an incredible job. A hard job. It took them years to master their craft, and its disingenuous to them to say its so easy.

You're putting words into my mouth there. I'm not saying that what those chefs do is easy, that would be ridiculous. It is clearly hard, but it's also completely irellevant. We're talking about home cooking. That's not hard.

> I just think the popular messaging of "just start cooking, its so easy if you just do only the basics"!

No, not "only do the basics", I'm saying "start simple". Simple food can be, and often is, good food. Start simple, make stuff that's good, but not complicated, and work from there. Grow the complexity as your confidence grows.

> Ends up causing way more harm than admitting that getting good at it to where you can confidently get up in the morning and not even think about eating out because you can make something you want at home if you want to is a time consuming and hard process.

What the hell are you eating for breakfast? Boil yourself a couple of eggs. Make avodado on toast. Make yourself some Pan con Tomate. Scramble yourself some eggs, maybe fry a little bacon on the side. This shit isn't complicated, and it's still good.

When you get home, reheat some Coq au Vin, it tastes great when it's sat overnight in the sauce.

> Sending signals about it being easy just makes someone wake up a few months down the road wondering why they still suck so much at it because everyone told them it would be so easy

It's not easy, but it's also not hard. It's one of those things that if you want to you can get good at to the point you can make good tasting simple food pretty quickly.

> but what they make to their palette still cannot compare to the diversity they want and get from eating out all the time so they stop trying.

You don't have to eat at home all the time. It's not all or nothing. Eat out sometimes, eat in sometimes. I go out for Cambodian food because I have none of the basic ingredients or skills to make it. That doesn't mean I can't then make lasagne at home the next day if I want that.

> I just personally see that happen all the time in my peer group.

Perhaps your peer group have just had some bad advice, or perhaps they've been put off by the incredibly negative narrative that you talk?


All great advice. And some of the meal kits are as guilty of complicating as anyone. My one order with Blue Apron included the most complicated and time consuming burger recipe I’ve ever made in my life and it wasn’t even all that great. I suspect they feel incented to have recipes that intimidate people from tackling on their own.


I feel that they also do this to satisfy their "no repeated menu items in one year" obligation, while still recognizing the fact that their customers like simple traditional foods like burgers.


I think a bigger problem which these services is that you're paying outrageous amounts. Blue Apron is like 9.99$ a meal, you're paying more than a dollar per 100 kcals which is insanity and then you have to spend 15-30 minutes preparing it, I can throw 8$ of chicken in the instant pot with some dry seasoning and 25 minutes later I've got pulled chicken for a week I can then rinse it out and throw in 3$ of black beans and have black beans for a week.

Most Americans can't afford 10$ per person per meal. Hell, the minimum wage here in Indiana is 7.25$, if you're lucky at retail you might be making 9$, average household income is $45,943 in Indiana, even just one person earning that you're taking home 35,482$ a year which is about 97$ a day which makes just 1 of these meals a day 10.2% of your net income.

The problem is, people try and apply Bay Area lifestyle to the rest of the country.


Not only that, but for $10/serving I can usually find a good cut (filet or ribeye) of steak on sale and a fresh veggie like asparagus. If I want to save money, chicken breast are on a permanent sale of 1.99/pound at my local grocery.

I tried BA, and while it was convenient I never felt I was getting the best quality or enough food for the price. I do have a lot of recipe cards that I still use though.


Not only that, but for $10/serving I can usually find a good cut (filet or ribeye) of steak on sale and a fresh veggie like asparagus. If I want to save money, chicken breast are on a permanent sale of 1.99/pound at my local grocery.

Totally off topic, but I can never quite get over how ridiculously cheap food is in the US.


> but I can never quite get over how ridiculously cheap food is in the US.

Keep in mind there's a LOT of subsidies for farmers and livestock. Part of the price is because it's baked into our taxes.

Granted, we also have more than 900 million acres of farm land. That's more than 1.4 million square miles. For perspective only 6 countries are larger than that in total land area (7 if you include the U.S.)


>Part of the price is because it's baked into our taxes.

Which are also cheap compared to Europe.


Food, gas, you name it -- it is all incredibly cheap. Plus comparatively low tax rates and high salaries, especially for tech workers.


I don't think it's all food. I was in the US recently, and while meat and processed food was far cheaper than at home (Ireland), fruit and vegetables were mostly weirdly expensive. I have no idea why.


>I do have a lot of recipe cards that I still use though.

Same, and a couple years of Blue Apron was an incredible cooking training for me. It required me to look up how to prep all those ingredients. And just learning temperatures, how to use knives, how to operate efficiently in the kitchen, what tools you ACTUALLY need to purchase, all things that just take tons of practice I was able to get a pretty solid handle on.

I really feel comfortable in the kitchen after a couple years of Blue Apron.


The case for a meal-in-a-box service is "It's home cooking, but easier for only a modest increase in cost"

The case for home cooking over delivery food most people know already :)


The raw cost of ingredients to the cost of a plate is at most 30% (restaurants tend to collapse at 35%). For Asian restaurants it is closer to 20%.

Say that the average "entree" for an Asian restaurant is $12, soup/app is $6. Lets pretend that there are two of you and both order app and entree. This means that the meal for 2 from an Asian restaurant is 2 x (12+6) = 36. We will let the cost be 33% i.e. restaurant barely hanging on which is equivalent of your family not buying anything on sale and every time randomly selecting the most expensive place to buy your ingredients.

This brings the input cost of a meal for two people (app or soup/entree each) to:

~33% of $36 = $12

Lets give a 50% upcharge for convenience of using a meal kit:

$12 + 0.5 * $12 = $18.

Ok, so we are at $18 for two people for the entire meal. Hell, lets increase margins further. Make it $20.

There's not a single meal kit company on the market at this time that sells kits for 2 people for $20 a meal on a non-trial basis.

WholeFoods, Wegmans, KeyFoods, ShopRite, Ahold are going to kill this entire "industry". They already have pre-packaged "dinner ready" containers that they are willing to sell at their cost + 10%. It is just a matter of time until they start marketing it.

The cost of WholeFoods "meal kit" for two people needed to make the standard Asian fare? About $11. That's the competition for meal kit companies. They need to compete with $11 spent at Whole Foods.


Well, if they are willing to, then I'm certainly not seeing it. Wegmans prepared foods are insanely expensive. Like $12 for a cold chicken parm with some green beans. The price seems to go up a $1 every 6 months. The quality also isn't great. I haven't looked at their prepared kits, but just a bag of chopped up fruit is like 4x the price of just buying the fruit and cutting it yourself.


Not prepared. They have boxes of vegetables needed for X around the vegetables section. In the meat section they have pre-marinated protein needed for Y. Prices are about 10% higher than picking up those ingredients by themselves. Right now it is "pick up X", "pick up Y". Overpay by 10% or so.

Currently they have about $10 worth of margin (currently 80% to 100%) on this before they are hitting price points of intro period of meal kit companies (nearly $20-$30 post intro). If they spend $3 of that margin on little things ( soy sauce, tahini paste, miso, oyster sauce, sprouts ) that are just for that meal they recreate meal kit cheaper, faster, fresher and most importantly from an already existing infrastructure that is designed to operate successfully on 5-10% margins.


In my experience it is far more than a "modest" increase in cost (once you burn through free/starter deals).


Well I think that it mostly depends on what you order. Fancy restaurant will have expensive fancy food but you can often find more reasonably-priced offerings (in my experience Asian restaurants are pretty competitive). After that it mostly depends on the delivery costs, obviously if you order for one it's a non-negligible amount but for two or more it becomes very small.


I'm not convinced it's even that much easier. My main annoyance with cooking is cleaning up afterwards; if they could handle THAT for me then maybe I'd be interested. I've never seen getting ingredients as a particularly arduous part of the process.


And what is the case for home cooking over delivery food, in your opinion? (I may agree with you, but I don't think everyone is on the same page here.)


Delivery optimizes for maximizing profitability, minimizing customer complaints (due to trying something too exotic, perhaps), and ease of marketing.

If you want to play a different game, such as maximizing nutrition, maximizing taste or texture instead of appearance in an ad, meet some specific health goal, or try something that might (or might not) be enjoyable, then home cooking is better.

By analogy its like the difference between formulaic pulp fiction mass market paperbacks vs the total sum of all human literature ever written.

Delivery is more profitable, but profit does not imply better food. A bad HN car analogy is delivery/restaurant food is like a 70s american car before the foreign car invasion; someone's making money but its not a good product.


It being far less expensive, seems to be the standout reason. Normal people can't afford $700/month for food delivery services.


It's a little less expensive, but I wouldn't call it "far" less expensive unless you're prepared to stick to the lowest-cost ingredients like rice and beans.


In my area, cooking for myself, my weekly supermarket food bill is about £30 (~$40) and that lets me eat pretty well. For comparison, a medium-sized delivery pizza is £17 (~$22).

So I'd be looking at about 4x the cost if I ate a delivery pizza every day.

How do the figures compare in your area? Is delivery food radically cheaper?


I'm in Chicago, so $22 is almost the cost of a medium deep dish pizza, and I can stretch that to almost a week of dinners if it's just me.

A couple of footnotes: 1. Pizza is absurdly cheap, even for takeout food. I don't really understand how that works. 2. I prefer takeout over paying for delivery, which saves a lot. My favorite pizza places are in walking distance.


The case is that you know what is your food.

Too often we'd order Indian and realise they had added extra salt to preserve some 'overstock'

Also, invariably the content in takeaway food is the lowest cost produce.

If you care about where your food comes from and what goes into it you cut out the middleman.


Forget adding extra salt because of poor quality ingredients, restaurants almost always add significantly more salt and fat than you would be comfortable doing yourself at home.


And what is the case for home cooking over delivery food

The big one is that I know what's in it and can select/exclude ingredients based on my own criteria. Another big plus is that I can tweak the flavors to match my preferences.


Has anyone considered the ecological implications? From the photos I've seen the ratio of packaging to food is huge for these types of services...


It's the main reason I didn't continue with HelloFresh (in Germany) after a short tryout period. My reasons for trying it out were a) curiosity b) seeing if their recipes are good and c) having less leftover materials when cooking for 2 people (for 1 is even worse) - I was not prepared for the amount of plastic packaging.

Also the meals were generally good, but not spectacular. They take as long to prepare, you need to be at home to get the delivery. The only upside is not having to go shopping - and if you any non-standard ingredients I always have to go to the further bigger supermarket, not the 2 that are easy to walk to. The cost was maybe 0-20% higher than buying it yourself. More toward 0% with nice cuts of meat, more like 50% markup if you did some non-fancy pasta or pancakes or whatever - but you could choose to ignore those, to be fair.


>if you live in a reasonably sized city then you will have a huge range of takeaway/delivery food options.

Delivery food and meal kit services aren't really competing for the same customers. Meal kits require prior planning, time and storage space, while delivery food isn't something a lot of people necessarily plan for (or at the very least, don't need to plan for).


The amount of people who want to cook and prepare a nice meal rather than get one delivered but then want to do it from a kit rather than the traditional way seems even smaller. I like to cook but the reasons why are mostly also reasons I have no interest in these meal kit services. I'm sure there is some market but it's unclear to me who it is since it sort of looks like the subset of people who want to cook but don't like to cook.


I used Blue Apron for a while fairly happily, and for me the reasoning was that I like to cook - I find it a really nice way to unwind after a workday - but I hate shopping and often don't feel like planning. So for a slightly higher cost per meal, I got to skip straight to the "fun" part.


..The amount of people who want to cook and prepare a nice meal is probably a lot less than the amount of people who think they want to cook and prepare a nice meal...

ftfy.

We did Blue Apron and Sunbasket both for a while. Both are generally good products, but they both take time we don't really have. (So my wife periodically logs into the app and opts out of everything they'd have otherwise sent automatically.)


Where I'm from all the big grocery store chains have a variant of a Blue Apron style service. Seems like a feature not a product.


Funny thing is that whenever we learned about entrepreneurship, the three phrase was always SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. When I look at meal ingredient delivery services (or Groupon type businesses) almost none of them seemed to have actual sustainable competitive advantages. Some had advantages (early traction, etc) but nothing seemed sustainable. What is the thinking behind backing these businesses for VCs?


I don't think they're failing because of a lack of competitive advantage. People just don't really like the service. My group of friends used the term "Blue Apron Anxiety" to describe the feeling you get when a new BA box was sitting on your doorstep and you still haven't cooked any of the meals from the last batch. If they did, competitive advantage could've been established (e.g. economies of scale). Besides, companies sometimes succeed with products that don't really afford themselves to competitive advantages (e.g. Facebook or Spotify) until they're big enough to be deeply entrenched.


Not to mention the anxiety you feel when you open up the packaging and there was just so much waste. Every time I opened up a meal delivery service meal I just felt like I was killing the environment. One time I had a large cardboard box specifically solely to package 10 almonds which were also wrapped in plastic and surrounded in bubble wrap.


> Every time I opened up a meal delivery service meal I just felt like I was killing the environment.

As you well should.

How the fuck have we gotten to the point where chopping up vegetables is a task too onerous for the "I'm too busy in my hustle to bother with this shit" types? These ass backwards Silicon Valley 'products' should be taken behind an alley and burned to the ground.

Coral reefs are dying, mass exctinction is underway, our oceans are deadened and acidic, the little life that remains is full of microplastics and metals, glaciers are receding, entire fucking nations are sinking, fires are blazing larger than ever, antibiotics are no longer effective, heck, even drinkable water is getting scarcer, but fuck it, what we need is yet more asinine packaging to let the fat, overfed, heavily consuming American have yet another morsel of convenience because god forbid he have to get off his electric wheelchair to exercise his muscles and bike to a grocery store to buy some fucking Brocolli.

Fuck it all.


> How the fuck have we gotten to the point where chopping up vegetables is a task too onerous for the "I'm too busy in my hustle to bother with this shit" types?

Most meal kits (definitely Blue Apron) still have you chopping up vegetables; they are taking care of portioning and grouping (shopping and household inventory management), not prepping. So your complaint here is a bit of a non-sequitur.


Not related to Blue Apron: Where I live, you can buy peeled and chopped onions. Have to be put in the fridge and are packed in a plastic bag.


Related to yours: the other day my wife told me she saw mandarin oranges peeled and individually wrapped in plastic. Mandarin oranges come with their own goddamn natural packaging. Why on Earth would you replace it with plastic?


The obvious answer is "to accommodate people with arthritis or other manual dexterity limiting condition."


That's not obvious, as presumably you don't need much more effort to peel the skin off a mandarin orange than you'd need to peel off the plastic wrapper.


I had some "Easy Peeler" mandarins yesterday and, without any arthritis, they were much more effort than removing a plastic wrapper would have been.

I can't even begin to imagine how hard it would be if I had crippling arthritis in my hands.


I wonder how many people buying this do actually have athritis.


I don't know but there were a lot of disabled people praising Whole Foods for their peeled oranges back in 2016 when that whole backlash happened.


Seems unlikely to me. And of course we don't have to presume, but can look at what people with those issues say, and they've been vocal about it whenever there's been a too-successful campaign against these things.


Careful with unintended consequences. Convenient fruits may displace some greener inconvenient fruits, but may also displace some order-of-magnitude worse food items, such as cheeseburgers.


Fruits are incredibly convenient by themselves without extra wrapping, the reason some people prefer cheeseburgers over fruits is not convenience, but because cheeseburgers taste better.


I live in New Jersey, and work in New York City. I leave my desk at 4, get home 5:15-5:30, and I like to cook dinner when I can.

I also have a 3-year-old, and keeping on a routine is something I feel that is important, so dinner on the table by 6 is my gold standard that I really really want to have happen as much as I can (allows bedtime routine at 7:30).

I often buy pre-chopped veggies, as long as I trust the chopper (there is a little farm market down the street from me and I see them chopping in the back room). The time it saves is great, easy 5 minutes closer to dinner time than I'd be otherwise, not counting the extra cleanup.


I don't think pre-chopped veggies is the problem, if you are getting them from a farm market presumably you can bring your own reusable containers? It makes complete sense to outsource the parts of the process that can be :)


I've said it here before, but these services are a lifesaver for some.

It might seem lazy to someone in full health, but sometimes those small things make all the difference.


There are ways of catering to people with special needs without enabling everyone to collectively destroy the environment.


But without there being a general audience for those things the cost is generally too high.

The example which springs to mind is the pre-peeled fruit a number of years ago which was similarly dismissed for having a harmful environmental impact, but if you've lost motor function in your hands it means you can eat a wider variety of foods.

Just because you don't see the need for something doesn't mean the need isn't there.


There’s so much money available that product market fit is not that important anymore. That’s at least what Steve Blank says (1). I don’t buy it, because I think it’s just a matter of time until you’ll find out that it doesn’t work and I don’t believe sheer money can create sustainable demand. But, it’s probably a great time to try stupid/crazy things or just give free stuff to consumers.

(1) https://steveblank.com/2018/09/05/is-the-lean-startup-dead/


> Funny thing is that whenever we learned about entrepreneurship, the three phrase was always SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

Yup.

Shameful to admit, but I only this month finally got around to read "Lean Startup". I'm in a process of copying notes and writing down some thoughts, so I have this fresh in front of me: the book frequently talks about the goal of a startup being to "discover how to build a sustainable business around that vision" (emphasis mine).

But then, it shows to build unsustainable growth and keeps portraying companies that got sold as examples of success. Such is the double standard, and the only way I can reconcile those two views is by concluding that the goal is for you to make money via the discovery, and for someone else to use that discovery to build an actually sustainable business. But if it is so, then there's no surprise people skip the "sustainable business" part, as you can make even more money in an unsustainable way.


Most early VCs get preferred stock and sales early. That's what happened with Blue Apron's IPO. The VCs benefitted greatly as it was their stock being sold to the public, first.


Finance vaguely plausible but essentially bullshit idea - IPO - sell most of your stock just after the IPO peak - move on.

Bullshit idea crashes, trashing the livelihoods of the developers and later investors, but you and your money are long gone.

This can look suspiciously like the slower and more professional version of a pump 'n dump stock scheme - although historically it's sometimes written off as "irrational exuberance".

If by some miracle the bullshit idea actually flies, your remaining stock gives you a slice.


I don’t think it’s anything like pump n dump. Anyone who bought into a food prep delivery service should have known better, all they had to do was try it for themselves. In any case, if you’re not wary of the risks in food service businesses, you probably need to do better research.


>trashing the livelihoods of the developers and later investors

If you don't like it then go write software for bigco and shove your money in an index fund. Nobody is forcing developers to work for trendy startups or forcing investors to invest in freshly IPO'd startups.


It's honestly a good idea, but it's not a VC idea. It's a slow burn, 10% annual growth market - like a well-liked restaurant.


When thinking about "why VCs...", keep in mind they have to invest in something. If they don't invest, they lose (lose LPs, lose the fund). So simple answer is - they invested in this company because it was the least worse idea pitched to them over a certain period.


Home Chef was acquired by Kroger.



How do you feel about Uber? They arguably don't have a sustainable competitive advantage either.

Yet they're somehow looking at a $120B IPO next year.


Uber is a transportation marketplace. If they’re successful in cornering the market all transportation is arranged through them but they employ zero drivers, and therefore would be wildly profitable. That’s why they’re all about market share at any cost.


If Uber disappeared tomorrow, everyone would download another app and do the same journey in the same car with the same driver and the day after tomorrow would forget that Uber ever existed.


But today they have the biggest network of drivers, and until they do disappear (or get disrupted by something like self-driving cars), network effect ensures that they'll remain the default option.


Same can be said for Instagram or Twitter?


Yes and no. There’s no ongoing relationship between people on Uber, drivers don’t have passengers as “followers” or “friends” or vice versa. There’s no network effect really. And many users and many drivers have multiple apps anyway. The stickiness of Uber is incredibly low.


Yeah, and Uber's founder's name is Travis Kalanick. How does spitting out random facts about Uber at all address his comment that Uber doesn't have a sustainable competitive advantage.


Their sustainable advantage is in dominance. If they offer the most transportation options people check them first, and drivers flock to where the people are.


That's not how it actually works. Customers flip back and forth between Uber and competing services based on cost and availability. There's literally zero switching cost and no customer loyalty.


It's called a network effect


I don't think there is a network effect present in either Uber's or Blue Apron's business model.

<snip snip> A network effect (also called network externality or demand-side economies of scale) is the positive effect described in economics and business that an additional user of a good or service has on the value of that product to others. When a network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases according to the number of others using it.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect


Blue Apron, not really. Uber certainly has a network effect. While many switched to Lyft given bad press, plenty more still got Uber originally (both sides of the market) and just use that. As they add more transit capabilities to their app (bikes, scooters etc) they will raise their moat as people just go there for all their transit needs.


There's not much thinking. It's hype and portfolio theory, and mostly hoping for a quick acquisition by a bigger company.


There's plenty of thinking. The VCs know what they are doing. For those that have plenty of cash, the game is to invest in anything and everything that has a good public facing brand.

Pump it with cash, then dump it on the public market with an ipo to all the less sophisticated investors that aren't reading the financials.

Sure, every once in a while, you'll come across a Facebook type business that ends up being profitable, but in the meantime you can still make money on the losers when you cash out.


> less sophisticated investors that aren't reading the financials

Do these actually exist? My understanding is that retail investors aren't significant and I don't believe that institutional investors don't look at financials.


In most IPOs, the vast majority of shares are allocated to institutional investors plus high net worth individuals who are favored customers of brokerages. Some of those buyers then flip their shares to retail investors just after the IPO for a quick low-risk profit.


Definitely. My aunt liked the service and put $100k into APRN around $5. It adds up.


> I don't believe that institutional investors don't look at financials.

Many don't, like indexed funds. They just try and keep their shares ratios inline with the market and rely on it always going up overall.


Do index funds drive the price at all though? I would expect them to be net neutral. If the stock goes down they sell, if it goes up, they buy.


Yes they're mostly neutral. But when the stock goes down that's still real people losing real money from their pension funds to what are essentially con artists. The saving grace here is as nradov said, they won't buy into IPO's.


Very few index funds purchase IPO shares. Companies that just IPO'd aren't listed in indexes; it takes a while for them to be added. Then the index funds buy on the secondary market.


Snap comes to mind.


Maybe we have different definitions of thought but there's definitely not a lot of in-depth analysis and due diligence in most deals, as that's how portfolio theory and sufficient deal flow is attained.

What you're talking about with IPOs is not quick or easy, and definitely not guaranteed in any way. Taking a company public essentially counts as an exit for most funds, and if it was that easy to just sell up everything then the entire VC field would look different. That process is more for private equity and banking firms who maneuver through financial engineering rather than early and mid-stage VCs.


This strategy requires a chain of greater fools. It’s only possible in a bull market because dumb money runs away quickly. If you collect a salary anyway far better to chase FB, Stripe, Airbnb than even think about flipping some company for more than it’s worth.


So... The Index Bubble?


Is it possible that brand recognition is sustainable?


FOMO


Here in .dk-land we have several Blue Apron style businesses.

The most prominent one started out more than two decades ago by as a kind of subscription service -- every week you'd get a bag containing the produce of the season, along with weird stuff like Hokkaido pumpkins that most people had no idea what to do with.

These days they ship recipes along with the exact quantities of ingredients that you'll need for cooking. Often ingredients that are hard to come by in grocery stores. It's time saving and usually delicious.

Anyway, my point is, they bootstrapped their business, pivoted a bit here and there, and built it to be profitable. So it's certainly doable.


I'd subscribe for a service that provided hard to get ingredients for unique meals. I love cooking and I love trying new things. This would be fun!


I wonder if that would have a higher chance of actually being profitable here in the U.S., charging about the same but cutting out the expensive to-your-door delivery. Although there's probably more food wastage.

The article mentioned Blue Apron (and competitors) are trying to increase sales at grocery stores, maybe some of them can survive like that if that works.


I wonder if that would have a higher chance of actually being profitable here in the U.S.

Kroger has these in the U.S. Probably some other chains, too.

I was surprised by how little food you get, and how expensive the Kroger kits are. I expected them to be a cheaper alternative to Blue Apron, but they're about the same price. And at least Blue Apron and its competitors deliver to my door. I have to stop at the supermarket for the store-brand knock-offs.


With Kroger, they have supply-demand uncertainty plus store-level fracturing. The advantage Blue Apron has over Kroger is better predictability of usage and demand pooling. I think this means more spoilage/waste for Kroger, and hence higher required margins for feasibility.


We had to give up on the Kroger kits because the quality control on the fresh ingredients was terrible. Even with the refund, it was still a time sink.


> I wonder if that would have a higher chance of actually being profitable here in the U.S., charging about the same but cutting out the expensive to-your-door delivery.

From what I've seen it doesn't help, the in store ones cost almost as a restaurant anyway, But at least a restaurant solves the time consuming part (cooking, cleaning), if your in the store then getting everything packaged together only saves a few minutes.

This is in Australia with a higher minimum wage, I imagine it would make an even smaller difference in the US.


I don’t really have good restaurant options around where I live though. I’d prefer to cook at home a lot of the time. But I sometimes prefer it to be a minimum of planning and prep.

But this is the conundrum. If I can pick up a few ingredients, even if there’s some waste, and throw together a meal quickly the meal kits may not add much.


When I was a student, the local Sainsbury's supermarket in London had recipe cards by the entrance. It was easy enough to find everything in the shop. There were perhaps 30-40 cards to choose from.

This no longer exists, people probably look on their phones, but the restriction in choice was useful.


Save-on-Foods in BC has both. There's DIY easy meal kits in the meat aisle and they have a grocery delivery service as well.


I did always wonder why Blue Apron didn't just partner with grocery stores. It makes so much more sense, and my little grocery store in New Amazon HQ, Queens does not have any type of meal kits.


I have seen it in grocery stores here in the midwest.


This probably won't come as a shock to anyone, but I have noticed more convenience foods being sold by supermarkets over the past several years. Things like trays of freshly prepared pre-seasoned food you just throw in the oven. Anecdotally, this seems much less expensive than services like Blue Apron even if it does force you to go pick it up yourself. (Then again, there's always Instacart...)


Exactly, the only advantage that these meal services can possibly offer is perhaps a streamlined way to get ingredients that are less likely sold by supermarkets.

Then again that would be a rather niche market.


I'm guessing you have not really gone to supermarkets recently. There's literally nothing that BlueApron has that is not stocked by most.

This is from 2008:

https://tucson.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/jacques-pepin...


I believe they’re solving a real problem. For people that want a healthy meal but don’t want to spend $ on farm to table type restaurant. Although I do see quite a few more healthy options sprouting up in NYC I can’t speak for more suburban areas. Point being is a lot people care about ingredients, food prep (i.e. those brussel sprouts are not that healthy if cooked in re-used vegetable oil).

The tricky part with this business model is making the food taste good is an art form and not easy to boil down to a simple 9 step formula. Also difficult is keeping all the ingredients fresh and portioned / ready to cook while keeping the price lower than it would be to go out and eat.


You don't save that much, especially after the cheap trial. If you know what you're doing, a run to the grocery store will actually be much cheaper. I think it's more for people who want a home-cooked meal but don't want to go shopping or find a recipe.


We were a great example: some family members gave us a Green Chef subscription while we were both home on parental leave and it was a great way to eat better while having very little free time / energy.


I don't believe savings is the primary goal.

to me main benefits are:

> control of food prep

> control of ingredients

> having ultra fresh cooked meal

> less packaging waste ?


I don't think the question is whether they're solving a problem but how profitable the market is: VC bubble thinking tends to chase high-margin businesses but this seems like something where anyone in it long-term will need to be comfortable with far more modest margins similar to what the restaurant industry has, especially since they can't make up a low-profit entree by selling high-profit alcohol and soda.


I know about them only from the numerous podcast commercials. Here in the Nordics all supermarket chains have had that service for a while now and it's quite convenient. I can see the value of it but all these supermarkets have their supply chain built and they started a similar service in no time. So I can't see how Blue Apron can compete in Europe for example.


Unlike Groupon they're providing value on net. The problem is that they didn't have any sort of moat to protect them from competition and when that competition arrived they weren't prepared for their market share to go down.


Just curious.

How much does one meal (per person) come out to be ?

If I am correct, they are targeting a relatively well off crowd and not the general populace.

Are their margins large enough to get by on just rich-ish customers ?


Blue apron was about $10 per person... $60 for 3 2-person meals.

I think that's a reasonable price to pay for blue apron convenience. Yes, you might be able to source the ingredients for less. But you lose out on time there, as well as right sizing of ingredients.


I don't see the value of Blue Apron over take out. The do the shopping but none of the prepwork so they don't solve the lack of time to prep and cook issue. I would rather sing up for a service that planned a monthly menu and delivered the meal ready to eat or reheat.


They’ve also kept several of my favorite podcasts afloat, though I haven’t heard them advertise as much since the IPO. Maybe their customer acquisition costs got ahead of them.


They changed their target demographics, now they sponsor mechanical engineering channels on YouTube.


Cough Moviepass cough


It’s slightly different, since Moviepass has a huge market (selling dollars for quarters), just not a very profitable one.


Moviepass didn't mess up on the size and demand of their market. They messed up in assessing the moat they thought they had. When the movie theaters saw how successful they were, it was too easy for them to raise the prices on moviepass and introduce their own product offering.


Wow, was thinking of this exact comment. 100% correct. (Somehow the online mattress craze seems immune to the same downfall.)


the online mattress store business model can't be any stranger than the brick-and-mortar mattress store business model. I'd love to read more about that.


I've used 4-5 services similar to Blue Apron, the issue with them for me is that we got tired by being limited to 3-4 recipes per week to choose from, and most of those is just different variation of pasta.

Also I don't want to pay ~$9 for their pasta dish and also cook and wash dishes after it. Even if someone who is making minimum wage - they will waste ~30 minutes cooking + ~15 minutes washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen after, so it's about $15 on top of the $9 portion, and you still have to go to grocery because their food is mostly for dinner and for 2-4 times a week because they have limited number of recipes.

On top of that I want to be able to spontaneously decide what I want to eat today, and not being forced to choose my food 2 weeks before. Maybe that works for someone, but whenever we try it just gets really boring and annoying after 3-4 weeks of usage.


I think Blue Apron is really the king of these services, on the 2-person-meals option there are now usually 8 options to choose from (they increased from 6 a couple months ago), only 2 max of which are pasta.

Most weeks there's a steak option, a fish option, or both, and there's always a couple non-pasta chicken options. I think the steak options are becoming somewhat rarer, there used to be one every single week.

A while ago they stopped charging different prices for different options. (So of course, I usually try to get the ones that look like the most expensive ingredients). I think that, along with increasing the number of options every week, was probably in response to customer feedback on pain points... but both those things also cut into their profitability. My sense is that they've been reducing the cost of the ingredients accordingly, trying to catch up.

I don't mind the time to cook and clean myself, the whole point for me is I _want_ to be cooking... it's just SO convenient not to have to do menu planning and shopping. And most of the meals cook quicker than what I'd cook myself (you can follow them like a zombie barely realizing what you're doing, for better or worse, ha). I'm willing to pay for that... to a point. If the ingredients and recipes are good. And they are correctly charging the right price for me -- in that any higher, and I'd cancel, they've got me at my max ha.

Even $15/meal is probably less than I'd pay at any restaurant/carry out that wasn't terribly unhealthy, including gratuity and tax.


>Even $15/meal is probably less than I'd pay at any restaurant/carry out that wasn't terribly unhealthy, including gratuity and tax.

15$ a meal is pure insanity for 400-600 kcals, I eat 6-8lbs of chicken a week and my weekly grocery bill is right around 50$.

I live in Indiana, the average household income is $45,943, even just one person earning that you're taking home 35,482$ a year which is about 97$ a day which makes just 1 of these meals a day 10.2% of your net income.

Most of the country is not tech workers drawing high 5 and low 6-figure incomes.


Right, but the person I was replying to was comparing it to prepared food.

I think more Americans may eat prepared food more often than you think (and Blue Apron or similar services are usually 2-3 meals a week, which is far from every meal).

But I agree it looks like the price they would need to charge to be profitable is not a price there is a sufficient market for.


They're usually around 800 Cals, FWIW.

I agree that it's overpriced, but I tried it discounted and found it reasonable aside from that.


> Even $15/meal is probably less than I'd pay at any restaurant/carry out that wasn't terribly unhealthy, including gratuity and tax.

If they want mass appeal then they need to have to include people in their market who can't afford to eat out for every meal.


> so it's about $15 on top of the $9 portion

Only if they're missing out on work by cooking their food. It's only an opportunity cost if there's an opportunity.

It doesn't cost me $400 every time I go to bed for the night.


I get your general point, that bits and pieces of time can't be converted directly into one's wage, since those bits and pieces can't be trivially converted into work for that same wage. But this calculation is still pretty valid under certain circumstances, at the very least as a floor: if you're not in a situation where you want more hours at work but can't get them[1], then you are in fact deciding that the marginal value of another hour of your work isn't

A couple of the caveats here are:

a) The market generally has a discrete floor on contiguous blocks of time: as a reductio ad absurdum, I generally can't sell alternating 30 seconds of work out of every minute and then add that up to 1/2 time. A related concept is that there are fixed costs associated with setting up this exchange.

b) For exempt employees, more hours of work don't translate directly into more pay, though depending on the incentive structure of the firm, they may translate stochastically (e.g. working harder to get a raise). The main point is that this relationship isn't continuous and it isn't frictionless.

That being said, it's really not a bad heuristic for trying to compare the value of time vs money. If I have a preference against spending my time on some task roughly on par with my preference for not working further, I can at the very least set a bound on what my time is worth: e.g. if I know I can reliably get software contracting work for an aftertax $120/hr (incl the time taken to secure the contracts), then it's somewhere between a heuristic and a tautology to say that I'm valuing a marginal hour of free time at >$120, which suggests that I should be willing to spend $120 on something that saves me from an hour of work that's comparably-unpleasant to doing an hour of contract work.

> It doesn't cost me $400 every time I go to bed for the night.

This is a particularly poor example, since ~8 hours is a contiguous enough block that you could get an entirely different job with a night shift, so yea, the opportunity cost is literally $400/sleep if that choice was feasible.

[1] which is actually a pretty common problem for low-wage workers much more so than high-wage workers


> This is a particularly poor example, since ~8 hours is a contiguous enough block that you could get an entirely different job with a night shift, so yea, the opportunity cost is literally $400/sleep if that choice was feasible.

If he's going to cut out sleeping, he might as well cut out eating entirely.


I doubt the original example was intended as actionable, since cutting out sleeping has far higher costs than the value of the labor. Its just a thought experiment.


> they will waste ~30 minutes cooking

Maybe it was just me but I always found Blue Apron to be 45 mins of cook time. If they could find a way to help me make a meal that was 80% as good in 50% of the time, I'd be a subscriber for life.


We used blue apron for almost a year, and another competitor for quite awhile as well. Blue Apron recipes seemed almost specifically designed to be hard to replicate and over-complicated. They always used strange ingredients you'd never have in your kitchen, far more pots and pans than necessary, took 2-3x the quoted time for my wife and I to prepare TOGETHER, and the pan-searing time for meats was always half of what was required to get it remotely cooked.

Very few Blue Apron meals were pasta, from what I can remember. If any.

I think the competitor, Gobble, was better by a fair bit, because less prep was required. But obviously that's a tradeoff.


> We used blue apron for almost a year, and another competitor for quite awhile as well. Blue Apron recipes seemed almost specifically designed to be hard to replicate and over-complicated. They always used strange ingredients you'd never have in your kitchen, far more pots and pans than necessary

Huh? Don't think I ever had BA need more than two pots/pans total (usually, at most one each, sometimes with the pan reused. Often just the pan.)

> took 2-3x the quoted time for my wife and I to prepare TOGETHER

Usually took slightly longer than quoted alone; but that's going to vary a lot by skill in the kitchen and equipment quality; if you have crappy or poorly maintained knives or poor knife skills, for instance, prep time goes way up.)

> and the pan-searing time for meats was always half of what was required to get it remotely cooked.

Cooking times IME were exact, or a little long; again, though, equipment (stove and cookware) play a role.


It was almost always 2 or 3 pans, and lots of prep bowls and the like. Sometimes I found out later they were unnecessary and the recipe should have just been worded differently.


I completely agree with you. Always a lot of pots/pans and I think I was a little embarrassed to admit it took me so much longer than their promised times, 2x to 3x was normal for us too. :(


I dont know how experienced you are cooking, but I have not had the same experience you have had with blue apron at all. Never took many pots or pans, and certainly never took 2-3x as long to pan-sear meats. My guess is you just aren't managing the heat appropriately. Their times are consistent with anything you would find with other recipes online.

We also did Gobble for about two weeks, there is no comparison in the quality of food, Blue Apron is SIGNIFICANTLY better. Gobble was FAR easier to prepare, for example, you would get pre-seasoned, and pre-prepared beef for a meal. Obviously that's very different than cooking a raw cut of meat yourself. But, as you pointed out, the tradeoff was in the quality of the finished food. Not even remotely close between the two.


I'm not particularly experienced (I've been cooking for years, of course, but it's hardly a hobby, more like a necessary evil), it's entirely possible we were doing something wrong. -- but it didn't seem to matter if I was using an Ikea pan or a cast iron pan I preheated for awhile; i was always on the verge of the smoke point of the oil and it still took way longer than suggested.

Blue Apron food was good; occasionally they gave us something nasty but we were usually able to toss it and just skip that one thing.


>i was always on the verge of the smoke point of the oil and it still took way longer than suggested.

So I used to struggle with this exact thing as well, and this is how I solved it. You have to remember that when you add the protein to the pan the temperature is going to drop by a large amount. So for me, as soon as I saw the first whisps of smoke off the oil, I would crank the heat up a bit and toss in the protein (or whatever I was starting with). You will be amazed what a difference in makes.


I think you just have to look around. https://www.gobble.com/ promises 15 cook times. There are also fully prepared meal delivery services like https://www.freshly.com/ or https://www.preppeddelivery.com/ where you just have to microwave the meals.


If you like cooking, the time spent might have a positive dollar value for you.

In my case, I do like cooking, but Blue Apron's subscription model became an endless treadmill that I stopped looking forward to after a couple months.


Even if you don't enjoy cooking, you could buy a 15 dollar speaker for the kitchen and put audiobooks or podcasts on while you cook so you don't feel like it is time wasted.


We (SWMBO and I) used to use a similar service, the meals were supposed to take 30 mins to prepare. I cook alot so I am no slouch in the kitchen but the reality was 45 minutes to an hour. I can’t always be bothered with that after a day at work, when I could whip something up in 15-20 mins from ingredients I have anyway. So we cancelled and still get these really cringy, attempted emotional manipulation emails begging us to come back... when your product is literally more work and more expensive than simply not having it, you don’t got a viable business model.


I'm a Blue Apron customer, I like it pretty okay.

But I've thought for a while that:

A) I wouldn't pay any more than I am now for it (in fact, I keep looking around for cheaper alternatives, but there aren't any, probably because...)

B) I suspect they can't make a profit at what they charge.

(especially cause as time goes on, I skip more and more weeks, further cutting into their per-acquired-customer revenue. Either I'm just getting tired of it, or my suspicions that each month the ingredients get cheaper and cheaper are correct, perhaps in response to B above).

I don't expect them (or their competitors) to stay around.


My food delivery service (Ocado) at some point added a "Here is a recipe, want to add the ingredients to your shop" button. For me that totally halted my desire to use services like Blue Apron.


Spot on with my thoughts and experience recently as well. I do like the pre prepped aspect, but I can't justify the costs and quantity of food/portions any longer.


Yeah the portions have gotten smaller too, you think?? I thought so too.


To me, the real appeal to me of meal services are "long tail" nutritional preferences- For instance, if you eat a strict ketogenic diet, you can get meal kits for that as well.

It's difficult to make your own ketogenic meals solely via your own grocery shopping and recipe research... but I can now eat pretty tasty meals with minimal effort in 2018 via meal services.


That's interesting to hear; I'm not in ketosis, but have a pretty non-standard diet from an American perspective[1], and part of what's kept me doing grocery/cooking from scratch and away from meal kits and other similar solutions is that they seem pretty poorly tailored to my bare minimum of a healthy diet. A friend gave me a $30 referral discount to HelloFresh and I tried out one shipment and gave up on it, for pretty much precisely this reason. I guess I should take a deeper look at their options for special types of diets, or maybe even

> It's difficult to make your own ketogenic meals solely via your own grocery shopping and recipe research

I'm surprised to hear this even more. Have you tried Googling "keto recipes [other search terms]" and meal-planning around it? If you've already tried this, I don't intend this to be patronizing; I'm actually relatively new to cooking most of what I eat, which means things like meal planning are actually pretty new to me. I've just found it to be a really effective way to organize frequent cooking, and once you build up a bit of a repertoire of recipes, it doesn't really take any extra time beyond putting the ingredients and Instacart order together.

[1] Which it turns out means simply "getting enough protein and fiber to not be super unhealthy"....


I've used sunbasket because it has paleo options. Happy to share a referral code.


> It's difficult to make your own ketogenic meals solely via your own grocery shopping

You might need to just spend a little time researching recipes . I have 3-4 that I cycle through. Also, there's always just straight up meat + veggies to fall back on, for which there are many possible combinations and that's probably the easiest thing to make. Most nights I just bake some chicken or salmon and sautee some veggies. No hard thinking involved there. And I'll have leftovers for the next night.

For me the grocery store is by far the easiest way for me to get stuff I can eat. Restaurants / takeout / convenience stores are a minefield of hidden carbs and sugar.


> Also, there's always just straight up meat + veggies to fall back on, for which there are many possible combinations and that's probably the easiest thing to make. Most nights I just bake some chicken or salmon and sautee some veggies.

I not even trying to be keto, but just generally healthy and this is my dinner most nights. Occasionally I'll add some rice or potatoes to the mix. You're right that there are many combinations of meat (chicken/steak/fish) and veggies. In the summer I grill, and in the winter I pan sear or bake.

Even expensive meats like fish or steak, still end up costing less per meal than BA.


Which do you prefer for Keto?


I'm pretty happy with "green chef".


It seems the recently swarm of meal kits companies are "me too"s that offer even less choices, but are trying to compete on price ($5 vis-a-vis Blue Apron's $10 per meal)


Literally eating a Blue Apron as I read this.

This is too bad, I just started doing Blue Apron and I really like it. I'm actually a good cook but I get stuck in a rut with respect to cooking the same things over and over again so it's been nice to have some enforced variety, especially when it comes to sides or bowl/hashes.

The quality is good, the prices seems fair. Just seems like a fraught model.


Just get a random recipe subscription?


It's not an issue of ideas, it's an issue of wastage and cost. And cost might even be a wash but at least now I don't have to watch a whole bottle of gochujang or horseradish or bag of farro go to waste because I wanted to try this one recipe I saw on NYT cooking and you can't get those things in perfectly sized amounts.


Trying it for two weeks, my first thought was that they should do a mise en place sort of service for the non-commodity groceries.

I can buy my own chicken, broccoli, rice, etc. just fine, but having the little bits all ready to go, not stuffing up my small fridge, would be great.


Yes exactly.


I feel the exact same way - maybe that's the pain point a business needs to be solving - making much smaller bottles of one-off ingredients!


So you think we need to trade the occasional waste of some ingredient you didn't use (and didn't bother to give to a friend/neighbour) for wasting ungodly amounts of plastic on small packaging?

(I know this is happening and will continue to happen - and this is how market choices contribute to the climate change and destruction of environment we live in.)


It's ridiculous how much plastic goes into each Blue Apron box. I was on Blue Apron for a couple months until I realized how damaging it is for the environment vs me just going out there and purchasing the ingredients myself.

Wasting ingredients can be solved with better planning of meals and grocery shopping. Blue Apron is just the lazy way of getting around doing that. Those plastic containers to hold the ingredients and spices though, leave a near permanent negative footprint on the environment


Seems like the packaging waste could be solved. I think these services might be underestimating how much waste weighs on peoples conscious when they subscribe.


Modern landfills really aren't all that bad, the real cost being the space they take up, which happens to not be a problem in the US.


Last time I checked, modern landfills were methane emitters, which is bad.


About 60M metric tonnes annual worldwide. Energy production and livestock produce 600M. So landfills are about 10% of the problem


Thanks for the number!

Still, my concern isn't just the landfill. When talking about unnecessary packaging, it's also the energy cost of extracting oil and turning it into that plastic packaging. Not all trash is created equal.


Phrased that way... what isn't concerning? Maybe enjoy Blue Apron for a year and skip an iPhone upgrade?


A bulk department helps a lot with this.


> gochujang

Stuff like this is a bad example, as far as I can tell it doesn't go off because I only buy it once a year and if you know you like Korean food thing things like this are used in loads of it and if you don't know if you like Korean food maybe go to a restaurant.


Thanks for the advice.


ok yeah to sprinkle in some varieties.. why would the mass market stick to it? it simply doesn't provide lasting value prop


I mean I don't think the economics work out for a publicly traded company, hence my saying the model is fraught. Certainly there is a non-trivial market for it though.


Maybe I'm just not their target but I want to pick my own veggies and meat. I don't want to leave it up to a minimum wager tossing whatever in my box as it heads down the line.


> ...I want to pick my own veggies and meat. I don't want to leave it up to a minimum wager...

If the veggie/meat pickers were highly paid experts, would it make a difference? At what pay grade and education level would you be comfortable delegating your veggie/meat picking?


I think people like you are not the target market for this kind of product -- you care what your food looks (and tastes) like, and are willing to put the time in to choose it yourself.

Then there's people like me -- I don't really care too much about getting the perfect vegetable, as long as it's not spoiled and tastes reasonably good, I'm happy with it, and I want to spend as little time as possible -- I'm happy to pay someone else to choose if it it means I can escape a visit to the grocery store.


> I don't really care too much about getting the perfect vegetable, as long as it's not spoiled and tastes reasonably good, I'm happy with it, and I want to spend as little time as possible.

Ordering takeout is the most efficient way to cater to people in this slice of the market. The intersection of people who don't intimately care about their ingredients and people who want to cook is very small. Most people who want to minimize time spend on food would not entertain the idea of cooking serious meals at home.


Robust takeout is not available in my region. We're a busy family, like all families. Both my wife and I hate visiting the grocery store, and find Peapod delivery to optimal.

I also wouldn't make the assumption that people like us, and the OP "don't care about ingredients". We just don't believe, like some do that our choices in ingredients will really matter that much. The ingredients our delivery guy brings us are the same as what's available in the local grocery store, we've never had bad ingredients delivered, and if we did it's easily sent back/refunded.


I agree with all of your points -- the delivery ingredients are "good enough", I don't need the perfect piece of broccoli for my dinner. But I do like having some control over how dinner is prepared, I find a lot of restaurant food to be way too salty (especially in the $12 price range of box-meal delivery), so I like being able to prepare it the way I want to.


You're getting downvoted, but this was an issue for me as well. I'll go through half a dozen ribeyes before picking the one I like the looks of. Same for produce - I'll pick certain onions, good looking broccoli, the non-slimy mushrooms. This is at a high-end grocery store (Wegmans), too.


When I first started using Blue Apron a year plus ago, I found the meat to be generally pretty high quality, as good or better as what I could get at the standard grocery store picking it out myself (rather than a "premium" one like whole foods or whatever), and better than Trader Joe's'. (around me, the standard grocery store has pretty crappy meat).

My sense is that meat quality has been going down, but I dunno, maybe it's exactly the same meat and the novelty has just worn off.

My sense is also that Blue Apron has historically had higher quality ingredients than some competitors, but I can't say that for sure, and am not sure it continues to be true.


Don't doubt your senses. I am certain, in the sense of my own taste experience, that 7-11 started off using higher quality meat then switched. In Canada 7-11 had a big change a couple years back and started selling fried chicken as well as pizza some of which had chicken. Initially I was really impressed with meat quality. It was tender white meat and fresh and seemed of comparable product to what you would expect from kfc back in the day. Then one day it stopped. Just never got as good. It was like they fed us their best for half a year then once in moved to a lower cheaper meat.


Like a dinner party. Excellent wines first, 8 more bottles deep, start pouring the 10$ bottle.


This is one of the big complaints against Blue Apron. They buy a ton of produce, sort out the good looking ones to send to customers and just throw away the stuff that doesn’t look good.


i used blueapron a lot when my wife was finishing her dissertation and we were remodeling our house... the quality of the ingredients is actually much higher than i would have expected, and (imho) at the minimum as good as you'll get at wegman's.

blue apron (or any service like this) needs to have the best quality food in the box, otherwise it's just not worth it... and at ~$10/person per meal, it had BETTER have good ingredients.

anyways, we just cancelled our blue apron account... it was definitely pricey, and where we live (berkeley ca) there are myriad amazing options for groceries. it served it's purpose when we needed it, tho.

it's sad to see them failing, but they chose a very difficult business model, so i'm not entirely surprised. :(


Yeah, I don't think this is all that unusual. I find myself carefully looking over vegetables in particular when shopping, and I'm not the only one doing it at any given time.


These complaints make me wonder if they should focus exclusively on very high-end gourmet meals, instead of trying to find and fill an awkward niche between Lean Cuisine and Uber Eats that might not even be there.

If they gave you access to all kinds of exotic ingredients in appropriate quantities, selected by professional restaurant buyers who definitely know what they're doing, you might find it interesting to use the service just to explore new recipes and variations. You could almost run a whole "cooking by mail" course that way. An obvious next step would be wine service, in areas where that's permitted.


They actually do have a wine service already: https://www.blueapron.com/wine

I think with their meal service, there's also an option to pair with a wine that they determine goes well with the meal.


I've used Peapod delivery service for years now and this is the #1 thing I hear from older family members. The veggies, fruit and meat are fine - stop worrying! I've never gotten an apple, veggie or cut of meat that I was unhappy with - just cook the damn meal! Now, if cooking the damn meal is the only thing you have planned for the day, by all means, inspect your food like a scientist.


The number of podcasts I listen to has mushroomed the past several years. Shortly ago, it seemed like half of them were brimming with Blue Apron sponsorship ads bordering on "Two Starbucks on every corner". Thankfully that's stopped, and now I know why. Perhaps their ad push didn't work as intended and/or expected.

[Of course, the new ad blitz is for someone else.]

Personally, I'm currently just not one of their target markets although on paper I probably should be. If/when I move further away than 1 block from a grocery store [I lucked out, a lot], and/or want to eat more complicated prep-time food, and/or have less time or ability to shop for ingredients [and somehow a simple grocery-delivery service just won't cut it] for some ever-increasingly complicated prep-time food, I'll might see the light.


This is something I'd love to see more analysis of actually.

They and other brands (especially all the online mattress and furniture brands now) are heavy on podcast advertising. Podcasts are trying to charge fairly high CPMs these days (I've seen rate cards approaching $75). Analysis I've seen says that typically it's really just high LTV advertisers who can make the numbers work, which means high initial price point or a sticky subscription typically.

So the question is, was Blue Apron's podcast advertising effective at driving revenue? Or was it just not effective enough for the growth needs of VC-backed expectations?

I'd love to find some analysis of the duration of advertisers' flights on various podcasts to see if it shows any trends towards growth or decline in that channel.


I live in the other side of the world and I've heard of blue apron so it does something


If i didn’t listen to podcasts I’d have no idea the electric toothbrush market is so big

The target market for this stuff feels so slim. Either you’re in this “too time constrained to shop, not too time constrained to make food at home” sliver, or in the “don’t want to menu plan” market. In the latter, you pay for this menu planning value add with, what, 30% surplus on the ingredients? Only to be replaceable by a recipe app, basically


Never understood it personally, maybe it's just the city I live in but the shopping part is the least tedious part of cooking for me and getting a package delivered successfully in my city is way higher stress wise than any ingredient shopping and besides I'd still have to go to the supermarket anyway for house things, essential and alcohol anyway.


>If i didn’t listen to podcasts I’d have no idea the electric toothbrush market is so big

Made me laugh. I agree. I have yet to figure out what’s wrong with the Sonicare, seems great.

Luckily I listen to podcasts (mostly electronics) that don’t do inline advertisements. When I hear them in other shows I can usually tell they are coming with the awkward segue that seems to be common MO.


Quip toothbrush seems like it was born out of a pitch based on flashing the Dollar Shave Club exit numbers in front of a wide-eyed VC. Honestly hard to understand how they can compete with cheap knockoff sonicare heads from Amazon, but they’ll spend a lot of money finding out.


Seems like 90% of my media consumption these days is somehow sponsored by Ziprecruiter.


Actually that's the same for me at the moment.

At this snapshot in time, ZipRecruiter would be the "someone else" the ads blitz I mentioned has switched to.


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