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Investors don't seem too keen on the concept.

Mike Pomranz
July 14, 2017

Wall Street has not been bullish on Blue Apron. When the well-known meal kit delivery service went public on June 29, the IPO was priced at $10, already about 50 percent below what the company had hoped. Since then, the price has trended steadily downwards: Currently, shares are under $7.50 – a 25 percent drop.

Granted, Blue Apron’s stumble out of the gate is a small sample size, less than three weeks, but going public also means more public scrutiny, and it’s possible this dip is indicative of genuine concerns about how successful the brand can be. As Nation Restaurant News’s Jonathan Maze points out, meal kits – despite being a growing sector within the industry – are an extremely tight niche. “[Blue Apron customers] still must buy some of the groceries, and fix the meals themselves and then do the dishes,” he writes. “It is more convenient than, say, shopping for groceries yourself. But it is also more expensive. And while it is cheaper than a visit to a restaurant, it is a lot less convenient.” Beyond all these tradeoffs, he skips over another factor: Meal kit delivery require forethought as well. And typically, if you’re the kind of person who’s willing to think ahead about your meal plans, you’re probably also the kind of person who would dedicate this time to writing a grocery list instead of planning which semi-prepared meals should be delivered at a later date.

Unfortunately for the meal kit world, some recent research has backed these concerns. Last month, Daniel McCarthy, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Emory University, estimated that 72 percent of Blue Apron customers stop using the service within the first six months. Due to this turnover, advertising to draw in new customers becomes even more of a major cost.  As a result, McCarthy believes 70 percent of the brand’s customers actually cause the company to lose money. “Even though Blue Apron turns a profit on the remaining 30% of customers, the break-even point is moving farther away with every new cohort,” he writes – a dire analysis.

And yet, an analysis from last October showed similar results, suggesting that only 50 percent of Blue Apron customers stuck with the service beyond the second week. Even more amazingly, that number was better than two of their competitors, HelloFresh and Plated, who were both below the 40 percent retention mark at the same point, according to 1010data Market Insights.

Speaking of HelloFresh, speculation has been that it too may go the IPO route this fall. If that happens, we may really get a sense of whether Wall Street is simply not into Blue Apron or whether investors are skeptical of the meal kit delivery business in general.