While meal kits have been pushing their expansion into retailers for years now, Blue Apron's news is significant: The pioneering D2C brand is now selling its kits on Walmart.com.
The new offers make it easier for consumers to dabble in meal-kit land, and don't require a subscription -- a continual obstacle in the volatile meal-kit landscape.
The collaboration is new territory for both companies, making Blue Apron the first and only meal-kit provider on the Walmart Marketplace platform.
"Through our work with Walmart.com Marketplace, we will be able to scale our ecommerce presence and introduce restaurant-quality meals without a subscription to a new group of customers who may not have considered meal kits before," said Dani Simpson, Blue Apron's chief marketing officer, in the announcement.
Blue Apron will fulfill the meal kits, kicking off with four kits, each serving up to 12 people. Menus include items like Rosemary & Panko Chicken with Roasted Potatoes & Creamy Lemon Sauce, and single-serve options ready in five minutes or less.
The move is part of Blue Apron’s latest comeback plan, introduced last month, which it's calling "The Next Course." That includes focusing on more curated customer experiences to drive growth and expand market share in target segments, "deepening engagement through an ecosystem of marketing, partnerships and new products."
The company also plans to make its platform more scalable with moves such as the Walmart.com connection. And it's vowing to use ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives to create sustainable profits.
It's a tall order for Blue Apron -- especially for a company still trying to shake its reputation as a cautionary tale for the D2C business model.
The company started in 2012, quickly inspiring dozens of competitors, including Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot.
Its 2017 public offering, viewed as one of the decade's worst, revealed that it needed to spend heavily on marketing to acquire new customers, who canceled their subscriptions as freely as they experimented with Sriracha sauce.
Grocers quickly realized they could do better, offering the same quality meal kits with no subscriptions and no wait.
But since 2019, Blue Apron has been looking for new ways to find its feet.
The pandemic helped revive the category as people looked for new ways to make at-home dining healthier and tastier. That need may be waning, though, and Blue Apron’s latest results hint at consumers losing interest as they venture into restaurants -- and other meal kits -- more often.
In recent quarterly results released last month, the New York company says net revenue fell 9% year-over-year to $117.8 million, down from $129.7 million.
Its net loss swelled to $38.4 million, up from $15.7 million in last year's comparable period.
Marketing expenses -- the Achilles heel of so many D2C companies -- also rose, up 40% year-over-year to $28 million.
The company says that while revenue declined on a year-over-year comparison, "targeted marketing investments aimed at improving brand awareness and reach, along with our innovative menu, strong product offering, and seasonality, drove a 9.2% quarter-over-quarter increase in customers. We expect to continue to grow customers in the second quarter."