At first glance, the idea of a meal kit—a box of prepared ingredients and a recipe that shows up at your door to help streamline and ease the burden of cooking—seems at best lazy, and at worst overindulgent. At least that's how you might imagine your grandma (who was so OG she'd make her own flour from scratch, probably) reacting to this burgeoning consumer food category.
But actually, a meal kit might actually be both convenient and more efficient. Back in September, Blue Apron commissioned independent sustainability nonprofit BSR to look at the data, and calculate how much food actually stayed out of landfills. BSR reported that 62% less food is wasted at Blue Apron's food prep facility and by consumers than the same meals cooked with grocery store ingredients.
Blue Apron wants you to know this. But while previous marketing has focused, understandably, on just what the hell a meal kit is and how it works, the brand's new advertising revolves around telling the story behind not only what Blue Apron does, but how and why it does it. The just launched "Start From Scratch" campaign, created by agency Droga5, kicks off with a mix of film and animation outlining the brand's goal to not just deliver you a tasty, convenient dinner, but build a better food system in the process.
"We've had this core company vision of building a better food system for a while, but we were finding that not enough consumers knew about all the amazing things we were doing, and what the true vision for our company was," says Blue Apron co-founder and CEO Matt Salzberg. "So we wanted to let the public under the hood, to see not just what we do but how we do it. We want them to understand why what Blue Apron offers is more affordable, better quality, and better for society."
Blue Apron chief marketing officer Jared Cluff says now that the company has shared its love for home cooking with its customers, it's using this campaign to go deeper into brand purpose. "Whether it's our direct relationships with hundreds of family farms, our category-leading seafood standards, or our regenerative farming programs, we want our customers to know that by cooking with Blue Apron, they're getting the highest quality ingredients, at the best possible value, sourced in a way that's better for our farms, our oceans, and our communities," says Cluff.
Droga5 executive creative director Neil Heymann says in creating the campaign, the agency looked at all the different angles associated with a service and company like Blue Apron. There is the company origin story, but also technicalities like how a meal kit works. In a lot of their early conversations, Heymann says they talked about what the experience was like, what it was like to cook with this thing and a lot about what this new category was doing.
"As we kept working on it, we kept looking at Blue Apron's approach as a company, how they've led the charge (in the U.S.) for the meal kit industry, and really started looking at the journey of the food from its origins, how it's farmed, and how it gets to consumers in the most efficient way possible," says Heymann. "So the starting point was this journey and having respect for that process. That was the inspiration behind this story."
Heymann says that while a lot of the company's competitors are still explaining the how of what a meal kit is, Blue Apron has reached the point where it feels like there's a pretty good understanding of the product concept and that it was a good time to talk more about the why instead of the what.
"When we decided to use that narrative, things started to fall into place quite quickly because everything is being viewed through the lens of why these decisions are being made, and not just explaining that you get a box with food and recipes that you can cook in your home," says Heymann. "It's really about finding the soul of the company and talking about why they exist."
The new campaign comes after an interesting few months for the company. First in October, Buzzfeed published a scathing investigative report that alleged health and worker safety violations at one of its packing facilities. Then in December, reports surfaced that it was delaying an expected initial public offering to focus on improving its financial metrics.
While Blue Apron has long talked about its mission to improve upon and offer an alternative to the mainstream food system, given all the coverage that Buzzfeed report received, this appears to be a great time to double down on that commitment to transparency. That said, Salzberg calls the Buzzfeed piece "extraordinarily misleading and misrepresentative of the fact of the situation."
"That entire article was about, more or less, a story that occurred two years prior to that publication and misrepresented the context for a lot of what occurred," says Salzberg. "It's a story that's inaccurate in many respects."
Salzberg also is sure to point out that Blue Apron has been marketing itself as an open and transparent company since the beginning. "This has been the vision of our company long before that article came out," he says. "Part of what we're doing with our customers is building a trust relationship, we want them to understand how we do what we do. When we talk about how this isn't the standard food you can get at the grocery store—these are unique ingredients grown with better practices, they taste better because they were specifically selected for flavor. We want people to understand how we're able to do that so it resonates with them. We want them to know we're a company trying to do the right thing for our customers and the world."