Convenience, cooking, and what Blue Apron offers its customers

Cynthia CloskeyGeneral

If you sign up to have a box of groceries and matching recipes delivered to your house every week, what are you buying? Convenience and the chance to avoid grocery checkout lines? A fancy meal that you have to cook yourself? Or the experience of making something new?

I have a membership to Blue Apron. This service sends the pre-measured ingredients for three meals to me each week, along with illustrated and easy-to-follow recipes for each meal. The ingredients are of very good quality, and the instructions in the recipes are clear and simple, with each meal taking a half hour to 45 minutes to prepare and requiring only basic booking equipment.

The service seems tailor-made for a new cook: someone recently out of college, with a well-paying job that allows them to spend a little more on food and on the convenience of having someone else shop for it.

But that doesn’t describe me as a member. I’ve been cooking for myself for years, have tons of cooking equipment, and feel I know my way around a kitchen very well. What does this service offer me?

For me, Blue Apron’s service turns what I often find to be a tedious task — fixing a healthy meal after a long workday — into an event. I can’t choose what meals will be sent each week, so I can’t fall into the rut of making the same few recipes that I find easy. The recipes often involve ingredients I haven’t tried before, like lemongrass, the grain freekeh, or dried hops flowers.

And though the preparation required is simple, it’s generally more elaborate than I would follow if I picked a recipe out of a cookbook. For example, last week we made chicken pot stickers, which meant filling a couple dozen noodle wrappers, boiling them to ensure the filling was cooked through, then pan-frying them. That’s a recipe I’d never have chosen on my own, even though I adore pot stickers. It came out perfectly, and it was one of my favorite meals from Blue Apron so far.

In other words, the service pushes me slightly out of my comfort zone. And then it rewards me with a delicious, filling, healthy meal, along with the pride and pleasure of having made it myself.

Blue Apron provides convenience, and for many of their customers that may be the great benefit of the service. For me, the convenience isn’t the part I most value. Instead, I appreciate the experience of cooking new things, and the way the Blue Apron meals are more than just dinner. They are special events.

Even the arrival of the Blue Apron box each week is an occasion, unpacking and checking out what’s coming up, discovering an ingredient I’ve not tried before.

(There’s a side benefit that several of my friends also receive Blue Apron deliveries, and we chat on Twitter about which meals we enjoy most, what we’re looking forward to in the coming week. So Blue Apron is also a community that I get to be part of.)

Blue Apron’s marketing smartly takes into account these varying motivations and reasons for buying. They emphasize the experience of cooking, the quality of their ingredients, and the convenience of the service.

What about your business? What are you really providing? Is it a box of food, or is it the experience of making and eating a new meal?