Recently, Blue Apron has caught my fancy. . . for reading material more than for ordering food. Blue Apron is a service that sends you a weekly set of dinner recipes (3 in the basic plan) along with ingredients apportioned to match each recipe. They move a lot of food, on the order of 3 million meals a month throughout the country, and they just raised $135 million in their latest round of investment.
Blue Apron eliminates exactly the reasons why I love cooking. Which is not a slam on them, it’s more like evidence I’d enjoy a job there. I happen to look forward to reading recipes, inventing recipes, going shopping and adjusting recipes based on what looks good to eat, adjusting mid-cooking based on any old whim. “Cooking by the numbers” as some people call the meal kits sounds boring. Other people obviously feel differently. The service has also caught my fancy because I imagine that for $60 a week (the starting price) I could hire someone to do the parts of cooking I don’t like as much – chopping, for example. It’s vicarious luxury spending.
Another reason I pay attention to Blue Apron is that it’s a section of the business world catering to people who’d like to have more homecooking in their lives, but haven’t been able to get there yet. After August 3rd, I naturally recommend that people meet that need by purchasing homecooked takeout from Hel’s Kitchen when they don’t have the time or inclination to cook, and following along on the Menu Notes blog to glean ideas for their own culinary projects when the time and inclination materialize. But you could say that as the Hel’s proprietress, I’m biased that way.
It’s interesting as well to hear the Blue Apron folks talk about efficiency within the food system. Many interviews focus on the food waste consumers see when we throw out food from our kitchens – the specifically portioned ingredients promise to eliminate that guilt-inducing waste and it’s a major marketing point for the service. I don’t know if Blue Apron significantly changes the big picture of household food waste in three meals (that carton of milk you forgot in the fridge two weeks ago is still there). I also don’t know how much behind-the-scenes waste goes into the apportionment of perfect quarter cups, two tablespoons, etc of ingredients. However, just because I haven’t seen an NRDC-style report doesn’t mean the change isn’t real. And Blue Apron isn’t only looking at what I toss out as an end user. They claim that their direct contracts with growers, bypassing the retail step in the food chain, and the ability to adjust recipes for 3 million monthly meals to match available supplies, all dramatically reduce waste. (What about the packaging waste? That I don’t know about – but here’s a recent New York Times op ed on the issue)
So. With all that preamble, here are a few recommended reading (and listening) links:
- “Blue Apron Takes the Lead in Funding for Meal Kit Start-Ups” in FastCompany (a good summary of the business model)
- “Is Blue Apron the Future of Homecooking?” in Eater.com
- What Doesn’t Kill You interview with Blue Apron co-founder Matt Wadiak
- “Dinner By the Numbers, How Do Meal Kits Stack Up” in CivilEats
- “My One-Year Experiment with Blue Apron’s Online Meal Service Kit” in Re/Code (I like this because the author is so pleased to have a full year to test a service before writing the article)