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MarketWatch has a story suggesting that while meal kit company Blue Apron has faced challenges of late - mostly in the stock market, where Amazon’s announcement that it is getting into the meal kit business “pummeled” its share price - in fact the company has a lot going for it.

For one thing, while it is not yet profitable, it has seen strong growth, delivering some eight million meals a month to customers. And, the fact that “Amazon sees so much potential in the industry is proof positive that the meal kit represents a new American staple, and not just—pardon the expression—a flash in our collective pots and pans.”

What Blue Apron now must do, the story says, is differentiate itself by focusing
“on the needs, wants, and values of its target audience: mainly millennials.

“First, Blue Apron should make taste innovations a priority through partnerships with organic farms and ethnic food suppliers. Second, Blue Apron must work on its environmental record by investing in a greener supply chain and more eco-friendly packaging for its ingredients. Finally, Blue Apron must communicate its strategy to customers in an inspirational and compelling way … Blue Apron can survive the threat of Amazon. It just needs to follow a recipe for success by resisting the temptation to play the discounting game and investing with a laser focus on delivering on millennial tastes and values.”

The Wall Street Journal also has a piece about meal kits, though it argues that Blue Apron’s are less about Amazon and more about a simple fact - “Americans don’t want to cook and never really have. Despite the nostalgic halo around home cooking, we have always seen mealtime mostly as a hurdle to clear, not as a cherished tradition.” And that even includes the prep work that meal kit services like Blue Apron require.

Companies like Blue Apron are, however, beginning to adapt: “Blue Apron recently introduced recipes that are faster to prepare. Amazon and other more recent entrants such as FreshRealm, Gobble and Terra’s Kitchen are going further, dialing back the prep work to almost zero. An Amazon recipe for catfish includes pre-made guacamole, already shucked corn and pre-sliced jalapeños. Tovala, launched in July, requires no cooking at all: The meals arrive prepared in aluminum trays. All you do is scan the bar code on the package, and the custom-made ‘smart oven’ (yours for just $399) will bake, broil or steam it to perfection.”

To be viable over the long term, the Journal argues, “To succeed, meal kits won’t just have to be easier than starting from scratch; they will have to be as easy as takeout.”
KC's View:
I’m not sure I am quite as negative on the American people’s interest in cooking as the Journal, but I get the point.

The thing of it is, every business needs to adapt and evolve and find new advantages, not to mention focus on the tastes and values of target customers. Frankly, that ought to be seen as the price of entry.