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Insights

Delivering on Meal Kits

In this Insight Flash, we use CE Vision to:
  • Compare customer retention across a subset of named Meal Kit competitors
  • Analyze spend trends for new vs. existing subscribers across the competitive landscape
  • Evaluate the impact on customer spending by state from COVID-related openings and closings

Among the different types of companies that have benefitted from the recent Stay-at-Home trend, meal kit services have seen some of the strongest sales growth.  They benefit from tailwinds in e-commerce and grocery, while providing an alternative to delivery services for those who are still wary of others touching their food but are also weary of cooking from scratch themselves.  Given the subscription nature of these businesses, our newly launched Customer Loyalty dashboard allows for extensive analysis into whether formerly lapsed subscribers are coming back, whether new shoppers since the coronavirus pandemic began are more loyal than prior new shopper cohorts, and whether the pandemic has led to increased spend per individual.  Additionally, our dashboard showing customer characteristics over time allows users to see how these trends have differed across states with different reopening (and reclosing) timelines.  This use case is relevant for any company that is looking to see how its new customers are behaving vs. new customers for competitive brands.  It can also help companies to understand whether recent new customers acquired through changes in marketing, expanded geography, or additional channels are going to be more or less valuable over time than previous customer cohorts.

Looking across four meal kit delivery services – Blue Apron, Home Chef, HelloFresh, and Sun Basket – and breaking out the data by when shoppers first ordered from a brand, there is a sharp drop in the number of individuals repeating transactions from the first to the second 35-day period (we use 35-day periods to account for the weekly nature of the billing cycles).  On average over the last twelve 35-day periods, 53.6% of new Sun Basket customers stayed for a second period, 52.6% of new Blue Apron customers stayed, 52.3% of new HelloFresh customers stayed, and 51.9% of new Home Chef customers stayed.  Dropoff continued into the third period, with only 32.5% of Sun Basket customers returning, 32.1% of Blue Apron customers returning, 28.7% of HelloFresh customers returning, and 32.0% of Home Chef customers returning.  The coronavirus pandemic, however, has led to slightly higher return customer rates.  For Sun Basket customers who first used the service in the 35 days ending 3/29/20, there was a slight improvement as 54.4% stayed for a second period and 35.6% stayed for a third.  For Home Chef, 54.6% of these customers stayed for a second period and 38.3% stayed for a third.  For Blue Apron, there was a more pronounced shift in the second period as 58.6% of new customers stayed and, like Home Chef, 38.3% stayed for a third.  For HelloFresh, the more dramatic improvement was among those who first shopped in the 35 days ending 5/3/20, with 63.6% staying for a second period and 48.9% staying for a third.  Companies using CE Vision can see their own drop-off rates for repeat business from new customers and track how these trends have changed over time.

Customer Loyalty – Number of Individuals

Blue Apron Percent Individuals Returning Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart
Home Chef Percent Individuals Returning Specified Number 35-Day Periods
After First Purchase Chart
HelloFresh Percent Individuals Returning Specified Number 35-Day Periods-After First Purchase Chart
Sun Basket-  Percent Individuals Returning Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart


Note: First shopped period refers to the first period the individual made a purchase from the brand in the 1120 day data history.

The aggressive promotions for the first deliveries is one explanation for the low loyalty in meal kits, as shoppers who find the services worthwhile with steep discounts may be reluctant to pay full price for later orders.  Over the last twelve periods of new subscribers, the average spend per individual in the second period of a Blue Apron subscription was 1.7x first period spend.  It was 1.8x for Sun Basket, 1.9x for Home Chef, and 2.1x for Hello Fresh.  However, once again stay at home orders have improved the fortunes of these services.  New Sun Basket subscribers in the 35 days ending 5/3/20 and 6/7/20 spent almost 30% more per individual than the average over the nine previous periods, and new Blue Apron subscribers in those periods spent 22% more.  New Home Chef subscribers in the 35 days ending 6/7/20 spent 28% more than the average of the previous ten periods’ new subscribers.  New HelloFresh subscribers in the 35 days ending 5/30/20 showed the biggest lift, spending 171% more than the average of the previous nine periods’ new subscribers.  All of these elevated spending levels per individual have continued in later months.  This type of analysis can be useful for marketers looking to see the ROI of different promotional strategies, real estate teams looking to see the ROI of new markets, or strategy teams looking to see the ROI of new initiatives.

Customer Loyalty – Spend Per Unique Customer

Blue Apron - Average Spend Per Unique Customer Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart
Home Chef-  Average Spend Per Unique Customer Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart
HelloFresh-  Average Spend Per Unique Customer Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart
Sun Basket-  Average Spend Per Unique Customer Specified Number 35-Day Periods After First Purchase Chart

Note: First shopped period refers to the first period the individual made a purchase from the brand in the 1120 day data history

However, to really dig into the COVID-19 impact on meal kit subscriptions, the best thing to do is to use our Demo and Geo Over Time dashboard to examine state-by-state trends.  In general, each of four selected states saw a notable acceleration in meal kit delivery spend growth for the 35 days ending 3/29/20.  California, the first to enter lockdown, saw the sharpest accelerations in spend growth in the 35 days ending 3/29/20.  New York, which followed shortly after, saw a similar acceleration in spend growth to California across services for the 35 days ending 5/3/20 (although Blue Apron growth lagged slightly).  After that, acceleration in spend growth slowed for three of the four states, while Florida acceleration remained steady through the 35 days ending 6/7/20.  Interestingly, Florida saw the most dramatic increase in sales growth for Home Chef, which is owned by local grocer Kroger.  Meal delivery kit spend growth in Texas peaked at the same time as New York, despite the acceleration never reaching the same levels.  Tracking differences across states has become crucial for all businesses not only in understanding their own historical performance, but in making more informed decisions for the future.

Geo Over Time

California Meal Kit Spend Growth Chart
Florida Meal Kit Spend Growth Chart
New York Meal Kit Spend Growth Chart
Texas Meal Kit Spend Growth Chart
Note:  In the analysis above, all averages for new shopper cohorts “over the past x periods” exclude any periods for which there is no data; for instance second period averages do not include values for first shopped period of the 35 days ending 7/12/2020