How To Feed a Unicorn



First, we’re going to show off a bit. Earlier this year, when AlleyWatch released our list of 15 NYC Startup Founders to Watch For in 2015 (in no particular order), Blue Apron Cofounder & CEO Matt Salzberg made the list, of course.

Now the leading fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service is delivering over three million meals a month to customers across the US – and just recently closed its Series D round, which gave the company a multibillion dollar valuation. So it seems that at-home cooks aren’t the only ones who are loving what Blue Apron is serving up.

And talk about a fresh approach: ingredients are sourced directly from farmers and food artisans.

Salzberg tells us more about the funding and some of the ingredients they’ve added that set Blue Apron apart – and makes it so valuable to cooks and investors alike.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise? Was it seed, Series A, B, etc?

Blue Apron recently received $135 million in Series D funding led by Fidelity Management and Research Company, with participation from existing investors.

Tell us about your product or service.

Blue Apron is the leading fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service is the US, and our mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible. We develop original recipes weekly, and deliver all the pre-portioned fresh ingredients needed to make them, directly to our customers’ homes. Our goal is to introduce our home chefs to something new with each meal, either a new cuisine, new ingredient, or new cooking technique.

Blue Apron Co-Founders

Blue Apron Cofounders

What inspired you to start the company?

Like many of our customers, Blue Apron cofounders Matt Salzberg and Ilia Papas loved to cook, but found the process of home cooking inaccessible. Finding the time to shop for and create a home-cooked meal at the end of a long day simply felt impossible a lot of the time. So, Matt and Ilia teamed up with Matthew Wadiak to create a service that could send all at-home chefs everything they needed to help them enjoy the simple act of cooking and eating, without the additional hassle of planning or shopping. With that inspiration, Blue Apron was born.

How is it different?

Blue Apron’s mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible. We do this for home chefs every day by delivering the freshest, seasonal ingredients; recipes inspired by unique, hard-to-find ingredients and culinary traditions; and step-by-step instructions on our printed recipe cards and via our interactive online recipes.

Blue Apron has also built a one-of-a-kind sourcing and fulfillment capability that allows us to rapidly adapt its supply chain every week to new, seasonal menus that our culinary team creates. Our farm sourcing team has developed relationships directly with hundreds of small and medium sized farmers across the country who emphasize sustainable growing practices. These direct relationships allow Blue Apron to give farmers predictable demand and many of them have begun growing crops specifically for Blue Apron. This summer alone, over one million pounds of produce will be planted and grown for Blue Apron. Working so closely with these farms means that Blue Apron is reducing waste in the supply chain, and in turn deliver food that is fresher and cheaper than what is available at grocery stores.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

Blue Apron is currently delivering over three million meals a month to customers across the country. With the launch of our new fulfillment center in Arlington, Texas, we’ll be able to deliver to 99% of the continental United States. Blue Apron caters to home chefs of all ages, demographics and geographies – from beginners who need Blue Apron to serve as a guide, to cooking pros who want to avoid the hassle of planning and shopping so they can spend more time in kitchen learning new recipes and techniques.

Tell us about the Family Plan that you added earlier this year.

Our Family Plan recipes are kid-friendly and balanced, and incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients that appeal to parents and kids alike. Customers can choose to receive two or four meals per week, meals are $8.74 per person, and each recipe is designed to serve four.

We’ve heard from many of our Family Plan customers that Blue Apron is bringing a newfound convenience to their traditional dinner routine, they’re trying new and exciting recipes, and that they are cooking and eating together more often at home with Blue Apron. We’ve also heard that kids are cooking more at home with Blue Apron – results from a recent survey of our customers showed that the number of kids cooking with their parents frequently or all the time doubled when their parents ordered Blue Apron.

Which are New Yorkers’ favorite proteins?

Our menus change each week based on what’s in season, so there isn’t one specific ingredient that is a favorite for any specific region.

What’s your business model?

Blue Apron offers its customers inspired recipes that feature pre-portioned, fresh ingredients picked at their peak. Blue Apron also helps customers save on planning and shopping so they can spend more time doing what they love – cooking. By sending exact portion sizes of each recipe ingredient, and working directly with farmers and artisans, Blue Apron helps reduce waste at all points in the food supply chain.

Blue Apron has a unique food-sourcing model. While typical grocery stores need to stock all food for all occasions, we plan menus a year in advance, which allows us to work directly with our suppliers to help plan their growing season or production

These direct relationships reduce waste in the food supply chain and allow us to provide food faster and fresher to our home chefs than what you can find at your local grocery store.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Blue Apron has spent past three years developing direct relationships with farmers and artisans across the country, which has become a true point of differentiation for the company. These direct supplier relationships translate to better, fresher ingredients for Blue Apron customers at the lowest price. Food isn’t sitting in distribution centers or warehouses waiting to get purchased and likely going to waste, rather it’s harvested just-in-time for a Blue Apron delivery. By reducing waste in the supply chain, Blue Apron is passing the value it’s creating both to its customers and to its suppliers. Blue Apron’s investors saw the value in the relationships the company has developed to enable it to supply food to consumers nationwide at a quality and price that has never been available, and fulfill its vision to be the way the entire country cooks.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

Blue Apron has a number of big initiatives planned for the next six months. We’ll be focusing on further developing our sourcing and farming relationships, building out our warehouse technology and automation, and investing in our people and marketing.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

Our mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible to everybody, so we will continue to focus on that for the near and long term.

About the author: AlleyWatch

AlleyWatch is the destination for startup news; opinions and reviews; investment and product information; events reported, experienced, seen, heard and overheard here in New York. But it’s who we are that makes us different: we’re the writers and the entrepreneurs; the investors and the mentors; the lawyers and the marketers; the realtors and the recruiters – the people who work in the industry.

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