Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) can either buy or destroy meal-kit provider Blue Apron without breaking a sweat as it prepares to absorb its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM).
Like many so-called “unicorns” that are heading to the public markets, Blue Apron, which is set to trade under the ticker APRN after its IPO, doesn’t earn a dime in profits. In fact, it’s drowning in a sea of red ink, posting losses of $52.2 million in the first three months of the year, more than the $30.8 million it lost in 2014 and its $47 million loss in 2015. The New York-based company even made the startling — though not surprising — admission that it may not ever operate in the black.
Of course, APRN has seen its revenue hit $795.4 million last year, more than 10 times the $77.8 million it generated in 2014.
Blue Apron as an Investment
Blue Apron is synonymous with meal kits in the minds of many investors thanks to its clever advertising that has been hard to avoid. It has also been pricey. Marketing spending was $144 million as of 2016, representing a whopping 18.1% of net revenue. During the most recent quarter, the expenses reached $60.6 million, an eye-popping 24.8% of net revenue.
APRN currently rules the meal-kit market, with a whopping 71% share. Though that’s impressive, that level of market dominance isn’t sustainable, particularly with a product where there isn’t a high barrier to entry.
Moreover, APRN’s subscription model is a problem. Consumers may not have the time to make their meals or they might not like the selections being offered to them. The Salted Eats and Purple Carrot meals offered by WFM work on a pay-as-you-go model, as does Amazon’s FreshDirect.
One reason why APRN has surged in popularity is that its meals average under $10 per serving, which makes it a compelling value for consumers compared with buying the ingredients in the grocery store. AMZN’s meals, however, are pretty cheap as well. Some average $9.50 a meal. I couldn’t easily find pricing information on Salted Eats, though Purple Carrot meals, which WFM began testing last year, average about $10.
Amazon is ruthless in driving down prices in everything that it sells and meal kits will be no different. Plus, it can tap into the millions of members who have signed up for Amazon Prime. Dinner and movie for $10? Why not?
AMZN can buy APRN with the spare change in CEO Jeff Bezos’ coach even with the insane $2 billion valuation being touted by Wall Street but he probably will save his money and build his own business. If that doesn’t work, Bezos will wait a few months, maybe a year for the Blue Apron hoopla to die down and snap up the company on the cheap.
As of this writing, Jonathan Berr did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.