Rivals Whip Up New Pitches as Meal Delivery Kits Gain Ground

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Blue Apron
Blue Apron Credit: Blue Apron

Two major meal kit delivery rivals are taking different approaches to selling their plans in new campaigns from new agencies, as they continue to craft their stories in an industry that is growing in size and awareness.

Blue Apron and HelloFresh each began delivering to U.S. homes in 2012. The systems are similar: customers pick how many meals they want each week and the ingredients and recipes arrive at their doorstep. The companies, along with competitors including Plated, each work a little bit differently but offer people the chance to cook meals at home that might be more gourmet or out of their routine dinners.

As financial services company Rabobank said in a "Food Delivery 2.0" note last year, "meal kits such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh are on a mission to make that trip to the supermarket or the need to eat at, or order from, the restaurant redundant." And they have all been advertising on TV and elsewhere for the past few years, including promoting discounts and free meals for first-time users.

"The marketing problem in the early days of Blue Apron was explaining to people really what a meal kit is and what Blue Apron does," said Chief Marketing Officer Jared Cluff.

Now, Blue Apron feels its brand awareness is high enough that it can take its message beyond the meal kit delivery industry. It's now focusing its message around the broader food system, saying it's working to change the way food is grown, processed and ultimately arrives in people's homes. For example, rather than getting produce from suppliers, Blue Apron has been cultivating relationships with family farms.

"We felt like it was really the right moment to move the narrative a little bit further along," Mr. Cluff said.

On Monday, Blue Apron will launch a 60-second anthem-style commercial as part of the "Better Food, From Scratch" campaign from Droga5, which it brought on as its creative agency in 2016.

The campaign quietly kicked off with a 30-second spot on Dec. 26. Now Blue Apron has plans for everything from running the new 60-second commercial in movie theaters to incorporating the look of the campaign into its packaging and updating the look of its recipe cards. Later spots are expected to dive deeper into the company's vision for an improved food system.

Meanwhile, in early January HelloFresh began running a 30-second spot from Domani, which it hired last year after working with DiMassimo Goldstein. The "Get Cooking" campaign shows how the process works and incorporates a bit of cheer into the dinner preparation process. The spot includes the line "delicious ingredients you'll love to eat, simple recipes you'll live to cook."

While HelloFresh has run TV spots since 2014, "we really believe this is our brand launch creative and we really are trying to communicate the kind of positivity that cooking and eating brings to people's lives," said Matt Fitzgerald, VP-marketing at HelloFresh. "It's a really clear message I think, for the first time."

While neither company would share revenue figures, both claim large audiences. Blue Apron said it is delivering more than 8 million meals a month. HelloFresh, which began in Germany in 2011, said the U.S. accounted for more than half of the 22.7 million meals it delivered to more than 800,000 active subscribers in the April-June 2016 period. (Along with Germany and the United States, HelloFresh operates in the UK, Austria, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada.)

HelloFresh said it had seen Blue Apron's new commercial, but did not comment on its competitor's work. Competitor Plated has been running a TV spot outlining its service with the line "plan for great."

"This is really the best time of year for our category, we see incredible strength in new user signups and ordering as we come out of the holidays," Mr. Cluff said. Having competitors such as HelloFresh advertising can help, he said, because it gives people more of the category story in what he said has become "a far more competitive landscape than it was."

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