When you come home from a long day of work, the idea of making a meal from scratch is dreadful. It takes time to find a recipe, go shopping, prep the ingredients, then start cooking.
A VC-turned entrepreneur who felt this pain, Matt Salzberg, decided to turn it into a business. His startup, Blue Apron, sends weekly ingredients to its subscribers in either 2, 4, or 6-person portions. It now ships ingredients for more than 100,000 meals per month and its growing popularity helped Blue Apron raise a fresh $US5 million Series B round of financing.
Investors include Salzberg’s former firm, Bessemer Venture Partners, First Round Capital, and some of Blue Apron’s previous investors.
Each week, Blue Apron posts six meals on its site, three of which are vegetarian. The meals are created in a test kitchen by one of the startup’s founders who is also a chef, Matthew Wadiak. Users can decide which (if any) meal to order and how many portions to buy. This week’s choices include spice-rubbed pork medallions with peach salsa and chopped Napa cabbage salad.
Each portion costs $US9.99 and takes 30-45 minutes to cook. There is no shipping cost, which is kind of Blue Apron, because it certainly costs a lot to guarantee that fresh, unbruised food will arrive at a user’s door. Ingredients are sent pre-measured, so users won’t spend time separating a bag of peas and worrying about wasted food. It doesn’t come chopped though, so you’ll still have to bear that burden.
Blue Apron’s meals are all healthy but Salzberg cautions that they’re not a dieting solution. Each portion is between 500 and 700 calories.
Blue Apron is raising money to continue scaling the company. It already ships meals to more than half the country, but it’s going to reach more destinations soon. It’s able to offer low costs by negotiating wholesale prices, something people can’t do at local grocery stores. It also knows how many people will be ordering a meal about six days in advance, so it knows how many ingredients to order. When they do over-purchase ingredients, Blue Apron donates them to a local New York charity, Food City Harvest, which gives leftovers to families in need.
Salzberg says everyone from new mums to empty nesters are trying Blue Apron. It’s even saved a few relationships. He says couples have also sent him photos of engagement rings next to meals they’ve made via Blue Apron.
While Blue Apron strives to make life easier, it also strives to help cooking novices improve their skills in the kitchen. The name was selected to reflect that; in France, apprentice chefs wear blue aprons. The startup currently has 40 employees. This is Salzberg’s first venture.