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[00:00:00]

Lila Green is a trauma surgeon in Houston.

[00:00:03]

I meet people on the worst day of their life usually, well, then I guess I should be glad we didn't meet in real life before Lila could become Dr. Green. She had to do a whole lot of training. And, you know, it's really hard to do when you're working a bonkers number of hours, eat properly.

[00:00:20]

I was in general surgery, residency at the time and kind of tired of eating like hospital food or fast food and things.

[00:00:29]

And that's when she heard about this service, a meal kit delivery that would send her all the ingredients she'd need to make three full meals plus instructions on how to make them no more time consuming trips to the grocery store and no more desperation Big Macs.

[00:00:44]

So I thought, well, I'll try it. I got a free box. And so I said, OK, I can do this. And I lived by myself, so I thought it would be something fun to do.

[00:00:57]

What Green is conveniently leaving out of her story is her level of cooking experience pre meal kit. I can heat things up and then go, Oh, I'm glad I had to buy so many different things.

[00:01:15]

Like ones like these boxes started coming. You need all these like equipment and things that I didn't have anybody zester and like I didn't have a garlic press. What is this? OK, but I you know, I'm a surgeon, so I have to have all the right instruments ready, you know, to put this stuff together.

[00:01:34]

Getting a meal kit every week did force Green to upgrade her kitchen utensil game. But more importantly, it gave her back time, something that as a trauma surgeon, she does not take for granted. Plus, the meal kits help Green hone her cooking skills. Forget just pressing cook on the microwave. Green is now a master in the fine art of mise en place.

[00:01:57]

You know, you have to learn how to chop everything up and set it aside and. Right. You know, you really do have to feel like you're cooking things because you really do have to put everything together right now.

[00:02:07]

I would think if you were a surgeon, your knife skills wouldn't be too bad.

[00:02:11]

Oh, no. I mean, I can I can cut people and carrots, OK?

[00:02:18]

I could you know, in the year the Green subscribed to that meal kit delivery service, she made seared steak and pizza from scratch and a whole host of other things. She would never normally prepare for herself. And she documented her cooking journey on Instagram. But eventually Green finished her training and got back to a more regular schedule, which allowed for grocery shopping and meal prep. So she canceled her subscription, which was bad news for the meal kit service she was using Blue Apron.

[00:02:47]

You may be familiar with the company from such podcast's as all of them to end the stress of cooking.

[00:02:53]

Now go to Blue Apron Dotcom Slash Rogen and get your first two meals free.

[00:02:58]

Inside everyone is an incredible cook. What was the last time you made a dinner you were really proud of?

[00:03:03]

And Thai curried cauliflower steaks with black rice and Thai basil. Why? It's blue apron dotcom crooked. That's blue apron dot com slash background slash marantz slash SVP dot com slash cook to get your first two meals creme.

[00:03:21]

When Blue Apron began in 2012, it was supposed to revolutionize how Americans ate, it was going to gently pull us away from our takeout and our TV dinners and nudge us back into the kitchen. And for a while it worked until it didn't. And Americans return to the warm embrace of their box mac and cheese and takeout pad Thai. Obviously, a home cooking revolution didn't materialize or did it?

[00:03:47]

The novel coronavirus has forced many of us to become intimately acquainted with our casserole dishes and our garlic presses and our Dutch ovens. We made banana bread by the palate and sourdough starter by the ton. We learned how to sear steaks and spatchcock chickens and all manner of gruesome carnivorous techniques. In short, boy, did we ever cook all this cooking at home, created a make or break moment for blue apron, but it wasn't supposed to be like that. Just a few years ago, the company was valued at two billion dollars.

[00:04:19]

Now it was barely hanging on by its fingernails. Its only lifeline, a global health crisis that required so many of us to shelter in place for months and avoid trips to the grocery store. I'm Lauren O'Brien from American Public Media. Welcome to the new season of Spectacular Failures, the show that always flambeaux the hell out of failure. Legend has it that the idea for Blue Apron began with an Argentinean steak, there were these two guys, Matt Salzberg and Ilya Poppa's, and they were clever tech entrepreneur types full of ideas.

[00:04:55]

Salzberg had an MBA from Harvard and cut his teeth in a big New York venture capital firm. Poppa's was a go getter software engineer. They met at a networking happy hour and decided to go into business together. But what kind of business?

[00:05:09]

Their original idea is not markets. It is more of a research crowdfunding idea called Petri Dish.

[00:05:17]

That's Alex Conrad. He's a senior editor at Forbes. He wrote about the founders in 2015. Petri dish wasn't the pair's only startup idea.

[00:05:26]

I think another one we highlighted in our article was Warby Parker for stroke. Don't even understand.

[00:05:33]

I, you know, a company that would give you a high end, but also affordable stroller experience. Yeah.

[00:05:42]

So those two startup ideas, a Kickstarter for science experiments and a Warby Parker for strollers were nonstarters for the pair. But then over grilled meat, it hit them.

[00:05:51]

Salzberg and Papis are doing dinner and they're struggling to make Argentinean steaks on a borrowed grill. And they're like, you know, wouldn't it be great if there's a service basically for amateurs like us?

[00:06:09]

In fact, there was. But it was in Sweden. In 2007, a woman named Kiki Tander created a company called Moedas Food that translates into dinner piece in English.

[00:06:20]

Let me see if I can pronounce this right. Medad screed.

[00:06:23]

That's pretty good.

[00:06:25]

Tander wanted to solve the vexing nightly problem that families around the world face. What are we having for dinner? Because the answer can always be ice cream.

[00:06:35]

People started talking about how our, you know, like the hour between five and six when you have to run to the grocery store and and fight with your spouse about who's cooking tonight, what are we having?

[00:06:47]

That right there is the spirit of entrepreneurship. I think the question is then, is this a legitimately huge problem and is this a problem that a lot of people have as well?

[00:06:58]

First of all, suburban pop is the answer to both of those questions was an enthusiastic yes. Now, at this point, it was 2012 and tandas company had been around for five years and was growing steadily. It had a few competitors in Europe, but in the US, nothing of the sort existed, which was great for Saltzberg and Papis.

[00:07:17]

And so they think we can start our own milk company for the U.S. market called part and parcel.

[00:07:24]

To be clear, that's a terrible name. And very quickly, they changed it to Blue Apron named for what French apprentice chefs wear in the kitchen. At almost the exact same time, a Harvard classmate of Salzburg began a rival meal kit company called Plaited. But Salzburg and Papa weren't worried because they had brought on a ringer. Matt Warshak, a chef with a degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.

[00:07:49]

And why Deach was the guy that was going to make their business stand apart from its rivals, Warshak would basically go and source the ingredients. Farmers would say, OK, we would love to lock in these large extra orders at a scale that is very attractive to us. You know, many thousands of ingredients. I think, you know, when he was in his food world, that was a differentiator and great for the brand.

[00:08:17]

Not only did Warwick design the menus and sourced the products, but he also served as the social media face of the company. He was Blue Aprons, culinary secret weapon and did a series of early YouTube videos showcasing his know how. Here he is trying to convince us that artichokes aren't viable.

[00:08:34]

Everybody likes artichokes, but they are crazy. What do you do with them? They're tough, they're spiny. They're all over the place. They're kind of confusing. A lot of times people just don't cook them because they don't understand how to cook them.

[00:08:45]

So he cuts into some truly revolting artichokes and proceeds to make my worst nightmare and get in there with a spoon and scoop out that really hairy, choky interior.

[00:08:56]

And the reason why they call it the choke is because if you eat this, you're going to choke. It's full of little fibers and it's like a fish.

[00:09:03]

In the early days, all the founders had to hustle like this before they had staff. It was Salzberg, Puppis and Wathiq Act packing up boxes in a small kitchen in Long Island City, New York. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the company landed some sweet venture capital to the tune of three million dollars. Things were looking good for the startup. Within the first few years, the business took off. In 2014, Blue Apron was shipping 600000 meals a month.

[00:09:29]

By 2016, it was eight million meals and a billion dollars in revenue. Within just five years of its founding, the company employed 4500 people and was valued at nearly two billion dollars. Blue Apron looked like it was on the express train to successful WHO apron seemed to be sort of the buzziest, the biggest market share.

[00:09:48]

The leader in this emerging category, which included Hello Fresh Sun Basket and about a million companies with the word chef in the name.

[00:09:57]

Then I actually tried the products and it seemed, at least to me personally, just as someone testing the products, that blue apron overall kind of had the experience that resonated the most with me. And I thought it might resonate the most with Americans.

[00:10:11]

Now, the thing about Americans is we love products that claim to make our lives easier, more convenient, less of a hassle. And that's exactly what Blue Apron was doing. It was saying, hey, working mom, we know you have a lot on your plate, lol. We want to help you cook nutritious and delicious meals for your family without the hassle of going to the grocery store or reading a cookbook. But it was also saying, hey millennial, we know you're a work hard, play hard, eat sloppy takeout at 9:00 p.m. kind of person.

[00:10:40]

But we also know that you'd love to cook if only it wasn't such a time consuming pain in the ass. So we're going to make it super convenient for you.

[00:10:50]

This American obsession with convenience around food and in particular the magical home cooked meal minus the effort goes back to at least the late nineteenth century, says culinary historian Laura Shapiro.

[00:11:02]

That was when a particular brand of utopian fiction began to emerge.

[00:11:06]

The plot was sort of the same. Somebody is taking a walk. They get bonked on the head when they wake up.

[00:11:12]

It's 500 years in the future and they're surrounded by all these strange looking creatures and it's a whole different world. And somebody takes them to dinner. They take them home to dinner. And it's a miracle dinner.

[00:11:25]

The food just appeared with a press of a button or the wave of an arm, and it was scrumptious and filling and most importantly, back then, digestible miracle food.

[00:11:35]

It was utopian food. And that has been a dream, I think that is attached itself to the American dinner table for decades and decades.

[00:11:44]

Not long after the emergence of this utopian fiction, dining actually did start to look like a miracle. You could buy vegetables in a can and chicken in a can. And later full meals like spaghetti and meatballs in a can.

[00:11:56]

Then in the 1950s came the frozen turkey dinner just whack in the oven and presto a.

[00:12:02]

Rubbery simulacrum of the real thing, but it was quick and clean up was a breeze.

[00:12:07]

Mother Murphy, lucky me, my wife uses Swardson TV turkey dinners and make your husband lucky to get Swanson TV, turkey dinners, Swanson TV, fried chicken dinners, Swanson TV, beef dinners from your groceries, big freezer.

[00:12:23]

When frozen fish sticks at the scene around the same time, buddy, it was utopian fiction come to life.

[00:12:29]

M. Chad Mallie Mrs. Misspells fish sticks with his fingers. Now I'm 32 and I use a fork sometimes. Mrs. Paulose. Fish sticks. You never stop loving him.

[00:12:40]

It was an immediate success. These, you know, deep fried frozen fish sticks that tasted not at all of fish, which meant that people adored them.

[00:12:52]

Obviously, fish sticks took off and the industry used that as an excuse to stick a fly. Everything, chicken, eggplant, lima beans, whatever you could deep fry and freeze. The packaged food industry tried it the postwar years, also brought an explosion of fast food and takeout meals. And now in the 21st century, we can order just about any food we want from some vegan drumsticks to a prefix haute cuisine meal just by pressing an app.

[00:13:19]

All of these iterations of the miracle dinner, it's like they aim at three longings that women have always had. When they think about making dinner, they want it to be effortless, they want it to be delicious, and they want it to have the moral value of home cooking.

[00:13:39]

The home cooking aspect of this is perhaps the most resonant. The thing that home cooking delivers that none of these other things do is that it satisfies, I think, what we all feel as the moral imperative to cook. There's something that just doesn't click in when the thing comes in from outside.

[00:14:01]

And this is a great thing for a company like Blue Apron because blue apron inches a little closer to that.

[00:14:09]

It just it gets you that much closer to feeling as though you have cooked this notice, Shapiro said, feeling as though you cooked something because for her, what Blue Apron is doing, despite all of its fresh ingredients and chef inspired recipes, is helping you assemble that kind of fool you into thinking you're cooking.

[00:14:30]

Whereas real cooking, Hands-On cooking, knowledgeable cooking has to do with cooking day after day doesn't mean you're making fabulous elaborate meals day after day, even if it's the simplest possible thing that's cooking.

[00:14:47]

Sure, getting a dime bag of zaatar, a thimble full of potatoes and a literal tablespoon of sesame oil. And your meal kit does have a somewhat infantilizing effect.

[00:14:57]

But in blue aprons early years, plenty of people were happy to have everything portioned out for them.

[00:15:02]

But convincing potential customers that they wanted and needed a service like that that cost the company some big cash in the form of free meals, tons of specials and endless advertising.

[00:15:16]

Anyone who listened to podcast in twenty fifteen through twenty eighteen is bound to have heard at least one disinterested podcast host give a lackluster blue apron ad read in biz speak.

[00:15:28]

All of this is known as the KAC or customer acquisition cost.

[00:15:32]

What it's supposed to be is the total amount of money that the company spent on marketing to acquire customers divided by the number of customers that they actually acquired.

[00:15:44]

That's Dan McCarthy. He's a marketing professor at Emory University's Business School and he's studied blue ribbon for years. McCarthy says that in the early days, Bloomberg was spending about 60 70 dollars per customer. But then as people came and went, blue apron had to spend more and more money to get new customers on board. The customer acquisition cost just kept creeping up and up and up until it nearly doubled.

[00:16:07]

And you can imagine if you're spending one hundred twenty just to bring somebody in when you talk about the amount of profit that you need after that to break even on that customer, that's a tougher proposition.

[00:16:18]

The more money blue apron spent, the harder it was to recoup the investment. Which brings us to the second problem, preventing customers from bolting once the company has spent all that money to bring them in. How many customers stick around? As measured by a really important metric called churn rate, the churn rate tells you the rate at which customers come into and spin out of the business. If you're spending a lot of cash to land new customers and they don't stick around long enough to make any money off of them, you have high customer acquisition costs and a high churn rate.

[00:16:51]

That's where Blue Apron found itself. And even the most basic cooking Dodo could tell you that's a gourmet recipe for losing a lot of money. Our pal Dr. Green used blue apron. For about a year, which is way longer than most of its customers stuck around, yes, about half the people were churning out in a month by six months, about 70 percent of their customers were turning out. They just weren't weren't able to keep those customers for as long as they should.

[00:17:19]

Despite Blue Apron's early success and growth, one that the company has never been able to crack is how to stop that outflow. How do you get people to subscribe and stay subscribe at least long enough to make a profit off of them? It's a puzzle, but despite its high churn rate, Blue Apron was still the market leader. It had gotten a slight jumpstart on rival Hello Fresh and was starting to look real sexy to big investors.

[00:17:43]

They were the 800 pound gorillas.

[00:17:45]

And even though the space itself wasn't that that large at the time, it was still something like five billion dollars and growing really quickly on its face, business seemed booming, but the whole meal kit market was on the cusp of a shakeup in twenty seventeen grocery chains, Albertsons and Kroger each picked off competing milk companies. Then another blue apron rival Sheft abruptly shut down and laid off all its employees, only to be bought a week later. And so Blue Apron was at a crossroads, says Alex Conrad.

[00:18:18]

For startups, the most common exits are, you know, you fail, you go public or you got bought. Those are really the only traditional outcomes. And so for the companies that didn't want to fail, they were going to have to go public some day or sell like that. That's that's just the reality.

[00:18:37]

So Blue Ribbon had three choices. Pack it in, sell or go public. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, join me in my outdated condo kitchen as I whip up some delicious blue apron meals and we explain how the really terrible coronavirus was also a little bit good for blue apron. Plus, we gaze into our milk crystal ball to see what the future might hold. Spoiler The future is delicious.

[00:19:23]

No story about Blue Apron could be called complete without sampling the product, so I ordered up a box and paid for it, mind you.

[00:19:31]

OK, so I just got my blue apron box at my doorstep. And when I picked it up, I could not believe how heavy it was.

[00:19:41]

When the box arrived. It felt like Christmas, except better because the food wasn't mediocre and arranged in a shrink wrap basket.

[00:19:48]

So let's crack into this box.

[00:19:52]

Inside there were two bunches of kale, some loose onions and about a million tiny baggies of knickknacks, including two tablespoons of cream fresh a quarter of a cup of panko breadcrumbs and one teaspoon of something called for a cake, which, according to the blue apron recipe, was supposed to, quote, lend even more savory flavor to my dish. Yum.

[00:20:13]

There's the tiniest, the tiniest tiniest portion of brown rice. I mean, this must be maybe half a cup in a bag, maybe three times the size.

[00:20:24]

I decided that it would be sad to cook these dishes by myself. So I invited my girlfriend over to experience the magic of Blue Apron with me.

[00:20:31]

You have a choice between meals tonight, so ready. Mostly because I'm so hungry.

[00:20:39]

Oh, well, we have the choice of three dishes, but one of them had cilantro sauce, so no thank you. Another was like a spicy Indian situation and I was feeling kind of basic. So I chose the pesto and kale pasta with goat cheese.

[00:20:54]

It says this quick cooking pasta gets a one two punch of irresistible flavor from a dollop of creamy goat cheese for delicious tang and our urbex basil pesto stirred into the warm pasta and garlicky kale just before serving.

[00:21:10]

By the way, that was wrong, herbaceous, a touch of crushed red pepper.

[00:21:17]

Tactically, we picked the easiest dish. So what things were going well until I dropped a garlic clove down the incinerator?

[00:21:24]

Oh, no, no. You have to go to the garbage disposal. After that near catastrophe, we boiled the fresh, covertly sauteed the kale with garlic and red pepper flakes, added the pesto and the dollop of goat cheese. And voila.

[00:21:37]

Can I get you a pasta? Well, y yes, you could.

[00:21:42]

And I'm here to report we made a damn fine meal. The kale was tender, crisp and very well seasoned. The capitally was perfectly elegant. Well done, Hannah. And the cheese added some good saltiness. I would say we are perfectly satisfied diners.

[00:21:58]

But wait, there's more. Lina was practically nothing because everything came out of a packet. So really we're only left with nothing. That's really a couple of dishes I don't want to underestimate, but I think that's right.

[00:22:12]

But not everyone who's used Blue Apron has appreciated that the company has gotten flak for its abundant packaging, though much of it is now recyclable and customers have complained that the recipes were too complicated. I made for blue apron meals for the story and for a middling cook with a reasonable amount of cookware. I thought the dishes were pretty simple to assemble, also pretty tasty. I would make every single one of those dishes again, but I do the shopping myself, which I guess sort of defeats the purpose.

[00:22:41]

When I opened my first blue apron box, it was a novelty, a cornucopia and cardboard. But then I forgot to cancel my subscription and I got a second box by accident. That one wasn't as exciting by then. I understood the gimmick and the excitement of discovery kind of fizzled in this way. I'm not too different from a lot of people who try Blue Apron, says Professor Dan McCarthy.

[00:23:02]

Discovery doesn't tend to last that long. There's a bunch of people. They look at the LaBron as this, you know, it's like I want kind of this surprising delight every month. And the problem is they may want that initially, but after you've been surprised and delighted a few times, you say, you know, I'm pretty good. I don't need any more of this surprising delight.

[00:23:25]

But Blue Apron execs were like, yeah, you do. You need it and you want it. And they believed in their products ability not just to continually delight, but to actually provide a valuable service to people. And all that meant that in twenty seventeen the company had to work out its options, pack it in, sell or go public, and the higher ups decided on going public. Now before offering a public stock in the company. For the first time, Bloomberg wanted to show strong customer growth, so they started to ramp up spending to bring in new users.

[00:23:59]

Remember CCAC, the customer acquisition cost? In the year before the IPO, Blue Apron increased its marketing cash by almost 200 percent. But none of this marketing resulted in a huge new customer haul. And that, says Forbes, is Alex Conrad made investors a little less in love with the company.

[00:24:18]

It was hard to make a really attractive, you know, future facings. Sorry for, like, how boyfriend really becomes that huge blueprint's books weren't the only thing that made investors turn up their noses around the IPO. A couple of weeks before the Blue Apron team was set to ring the bell, the New York Stock Exchange, Amazon made a little announcement it was buying Whole Foods in a thirteen point seven billion dollar deal for Blue Apron. It was like getting upstaged at your own wedding by an impossibly rich and infinitely more beautiful guest of a guest when Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods was announced.

[00:24:53]

That was just devastating, even just psychologically. It felt like, you know, here come the Giants. And if Amazon can sell things to online really well and Whole Foods has pretty good ingredients, what is Blue Apron really selling here?

[00:25:12]

And then, of course, Amazon trademarked its own meal kit offering.

[00:25:16]

Everyone was very concerned that basically this was going to be the next you know, I won't call Blue Apron and you know, but I would say everyone agree Amazon's way bigger. So they were just going to bowl their way right in and stamp this this industry out. And so that that was a big lurking concern.

[00:25:36]

Blue ribbons, IPO in the summer of twenty seventeen raised three hundred million dollars, about a third of what the company anticipated. Stock went for about ten dollars a share rather than the expected 15 to 17 dollars.

[00:25:49]

It was a turbulent IPO, to say the least.

[00:25:53]

Still, Blue Apron co-founder and CEO Matt Salzberg seemed pretty upbeat about the whole situation on CNBC.

[00:25:59]

I'm honestly not here to really talk about the price of labor and stock. That's really up to the investors to decide, you know, blueprint is here because we're excited about the big opportunity that we're going after. We're tackling a huge market and we're focused on the long term, quite frankly, and the stock price today, whether it's up, down, left or right, is really just the beginning of this new chapter in our companies like that.

[00:26:20]

We're really excited about no sense of urgency. One thing Salzberg mentioned in that clip was how his company was tackling a huge market. Now, if you're defining the market as all the people who eat food in America, then, yeah, that's a huge market. But according to the good folks at market research company Packaged Facts, that market has a ceiling and not like a cathedral ceiling. Initially, the market was definitely expanding exponentially. And I think that's where a lot of the interest initially came from.

[00:26:50]

If you're seeing these companies that are having 100 percent growth, like, that's really significant. That's Kara Rasche. She's a food and beverage analyst with packaged facts.

[00:27:00]

One of the whole things that I think went wrong with the industry is people thought there was a very big addressable market for markets. But as it turns out, there really isn't. It's hard to gauge. But Rash estimates that only about one percent of the U.S. population uses home delivery meal kits. And she says the market kind of peaked two or three years ago since Blue Apron started. More than one hundred fifty meal kit services have come on the scene, but only about 15 to 20 hour national operations with hello fresh now, the clear market leader.

[00:27:33]

Remember when we said Amazon trademarked its meal kit back in twenty seventeen? Rasche says the company never did much with it. And that's a pretty good indicator that meal kit delivery is not a growing global concern.

[00:27:45]

I think that Amazon saw that much of the market for meal kits had already been addressed by the competitors that were already there. So they didn't try really to break into that because they didn't see much potential for growth anymore.

[00:27:59]

It seems like Amazon was right to hold off in twenty. Seventeen, Blue Apron hemorrhaged 250000 customers and its stock price had tanked just two dollars and ninety nine cents a share by the end of the year. And there were more problems within a month of the IPO. Co-founder Matt Wadiya stepped down as CEO Matt Salzberg, then the CEO, resigned his post shortly thereafter. Blue apron's expensive brand spanking new fulfillment center in New Jersey had a bunch of tech bugs that needed to be worked out, and workers from its California operation filed a class action lawsuit over alleged missing wages.

[00:28:37]

Things were looking pretty grim for the ones hyped company.

[00:28:40]

Welcome to Trading Nation America Chummy. Let's take a look at what of last year's high profile IPOs that's getting absolutely smoked. We're talking, of course, about blue apron.

[00:28:50]

The stock sinking as much as four percent on Friday by the end of twenty eighteen blue apron stock dipped below a dollar a share and the slide didn't seem to be letting up.

[00:28:59]

The following summer, the company try to move meant to keep it from being booted from the stock exchange. It's called a reverse stock split. And basically it means that the company bundled its shares. So you get a fewer total number of shares. But each share is worth more like trading in four quarters for a dollar. The move raised the company's stock price, but customers still weren't flocking to blue apron's boxes. Now, at this point, I would have thrown in the towel, but not CEO Linda Finley Kozlowski, the company wouldn't make Kozlowski available for a chat, but here she is last year on CNBC, Squawk on the Street, talking about how jazz she is about blue apron's prospects and our recipes, our ingredients, our culinary authority, our brand recognition is by far still number one.

[00:29:45]

So we feel confident that when we're talking to investors, they appreciate and understand that there's something here. It's really just about getting execution right and making sure that we're actually Google.

[00:29:55]

But also Blue Apron was thinking about getting down with some strategic alternatives, says market watchers Tanya Garcia.

[00:30:02]

Strategic alternatives, which, you know, means a lot and nothing at the same time. Right.

[00:30:07]

It's like saying I'm totally happy being single, but I'd be into dating of the right person came along.

[00:30:13]

It's kind of like one of those things that companies will say when they're just like, well, we'd be open to, you know, getting bored or partnership if you're interested, you know, kind of a thing in early twenty, twenty blue apron, put the word out that it was interested in possibly getting scooped up maybe by a big grocery chain or someone else with deep pockets who wanted to own a meal kit delivery business. At the same time, Garcia says the company acted like it was in turnaround mode.

[00:30:39]

It decided to streamline operations, including shutting down its fulfillment center in Texas. It also did away with trying to shovel everyone who had ever eaten food into the top of its customer funnel.

[00:30:51]

They've decided to focus on what they call their core customers. And these are people who aren't going to do like a lot of people and use a coupon and, you know, get blue even for a month and then cancel their subscription.

[00:31:06]

So at the same time, Blue Apron was looking to sell. It was also doubling down on its mission. These were last gasp efforts. It wanted to save itself. And then came the most unlikely lifeline anyone could think of, a global pandemic, a highly contagious virus that require those of us without essential jobs to practically never leave our houses online. Grocery delivery shot through the roof and suddenly everyone remembered about this company they heard about on a podcast ad three years ago.

[00:31:36]

The pandemic has been actually a bit of a good thing for them because it has raised demand.

[00:31:42]

Blue Apron sees a lot of potential in what the company is offering, especially given that more Americans seem to be interested in cooking at home. Thanks, Korona. If your blue apron, then you're probably thinking, you know, well, if we do a good job, some of this will stick in the first quarter of twenty twenty.

[00:31:59]

When Coronavirus brought America to a standstill, blue apron, customer orders were up a bit, though they didn't spike like the markets hoped.

[00:32:07]

The company still lost twenty million dollars, but that was a little better than the previous quarter. On its first quarter earnings call of 2020, the company's CEO and CFO shook their pompoms like they were on an episode of Cheer, but like the version that features slightly wooden corporate executives.

[00:32:23]

So now I think the combination of those things, you know, puts us in a good position going forward. And and, you know, we can't specifically guide to what could happen in the second half of the year because of all the uncertainties. You know, we do believe that they'll continue to be some positive effects as we move out of Q2.

[00:32:39]

The pandemic seems like it's given blue apron, a decent little boost in the second quarter. The company brought in twenty thousand more subscribers, but that's still way below where they were in 2019. It's anyone's guess whether blue apron specifically and meal kit delivery more generally are here to stay the business. Kiki Tandoor, founded in Sweden thirteen years ago, is still delivering weekly mail fixin's to busy Swedes and despite its own turbulence, market leader Hello Fresh is still cranking out boxes, and there's no shortage of small meal kit companies looking to fill paleo or vegan or regional cuisine.

[00:33:14]

Nicias, no one knows what the true impact of a global pandemic will be on how we eat and where and when. Not yet anyway. Grocery delivery seems like it's here to stay maybe high end restaurant takeout. We'll also stick around in some form. It's hard to tell whether all those people who took up home cooking out of necessity will continue to bake crusty sour dough and whip up elaborate curries when we can all safely frequent our favorite local spots. Blue Ribbon is banking on a sea change in how Americans eat the company that was shopping for a buyer just a month before the pandemic.

[00:33:49]

It is now trying to turn a cataclysmic global event into a business saving opportunity. One big blue box of food at a time. Spectacular failures as a production of American Public Media. It's written and hosted by me world's most finicky eater, Lauren Ober, vegan baking wizard. Whitney Jones is the show's producer. Our editor is Chef de Cuisine. Phyllis Fletcher, barbecue aficionado. David John is our assistant producer. Our theme music is by the delightful David Schulman.

[00:34:22]

Other original music this season comes from Jen Champion and Michael Cormier. Christina Lopez is our audience engagement editor and Lauren Dezi is our executive producer concept developed by Tracey Mumford, general manager of Avium Studios is Lily Kim. If you want to see photos and videos of my own blue apron cooking, and why wouldn't you check out our website Spectacular Failures Dog Super special thanks to the greatest trauma surgeon, Metro Houston, for chatting with us about her asparagus pea.

[00:34:52]

So I got some asparagus and then I hadn't really even at that much.

[00:34:57]

I went to the bathroom and I said, something is not right and I'm a hole doctor.

[00:35:03]

I'm a full on doctor.

[00:35:07]

I had to like WebMD myself. I said something has died inside of me.