This public-sourced case set in early 2022 explores the meal-kit-delivery service Blue Apron, a pioneer in the rapidly growing market of alternatives to shopping for food, meal planning, and cooking. Founded in 2012 by three entrepreneurs, Blue Apron sought to give people an easier way to get meals on the table without resorting to takeout or delivery: a box filled with exactly the right amount of ingredients for making creative and interesting recipes.
The case follows Lydia Thomas, a third-year consultant at McKinsey & Co. who must offer a strategy recommendation for Blue Apron as the company struggles to turn a profit in an increasingly competitive food-delivery industry. Thomas learns that Blue Apron offered its customers a fun way to learn to cook, to try a new cuisine, and to save time at the grocery store and in the kitchen, all with the promise of healthy, seasonal, carefully sourced ingredients that wouldn’t end up becoming food waste. Although Blue Apron experienced years of growth, in 2017, customers began to leave the platform and the business began to struggle. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, prompting a huge surge in demand for food delivery, the rise of competitors and new industry disrupters such as HelloFresh, Uber Eats, and Instacart still had Blue Apron concerned about the viability of its business model in the face of numerous threats. Even Walmart and Amazon were competitors in the evolving market. The case allows for a rich discussion around the food supply chain, the advantage of scale, and business-model innovation. Could Blue Apron continue to compete in the market it had helped to create?