Blue Apron CEO steps down
- Blue Apron president and CEO Brad Dickerson has stepped down to pursue other opportunities, according to a company news release. Dickerson, who was appointed to the top role in 2017, will be succeeded by Linda Findley Kozlowski, a veteran of Etsy and Alibaba. The appointment will be effective April 8. Dickerson will remain with the company as an adviser for an unspecified time period helping with the transition process.
- Kozlowski most recently served as chief operating officer at Etsy, where she helped grow marketplace sales to more than $3.9 billion. She also held a previous role as chief operations officer at Evernote, and was director of global marketing and customer experience for Alibaba.com.
- Blue Apron also announced that Ilia Papas, Blue Apron's co-founder chief technology officer, will leave to pursue other opportunities. His last day will be May 3. The company says it has a succession plan in place.
Ongoing struggles within the company and throughout the meal kit industry have sent Blue Apron's stock price plummeting in recent months. The meal kit maker that grew rapidly in its early years made a few operational blunders after going public in 2017 and has struggled to build its online and in-store business as competition and customer churn take their toll. At the end of 2018, Blue Apron laid off 4% of its workforce.
During the company's latest earnings call in January, Dickerson laid out a plan for Blue Apron to boost spending among its core customers, and to target only the most promising potential customers. The company has slashed marketing spend as a result, causing its overall customer count to plummet.
It will be interesting to see if Kozlowski continues down this path, or if she sets a new course. The e-commerce veteran brings deep knowledge of customer engagement, supported by 25 years of experience in product, sales, marketing and business development. Her executive experience with big tech names such as Etsy and Alibaba could prove valuable in strengthening Blue Apron’s technology platform, while her background in consumer marketing could influence the company’s direction when it comes to engaging with subscribers, driving sales and building brand loyalty.
"This is an exciting time to join Blue Apron," Kozlowski said in a statement. "Over the past year, the company has made significant product, platform and operational advancements, and now has the right foundation for growth."
Meal kits have proven tricky for scores of companies, though Blue Apron has become the poster child for the industry's struggles. The company had a disastrous public offering in 2017, and its fortunes haven't improved much since then. Still, it remains a top brand in the field and enjoys a loyal core of customers who receive its pre-portioned, cook-at-home meals week in and week out.
In addition to enhancing its direct-to-consumer operations, Blue Apron is trying to get more of its meal kits on grocery shelves. The company launched in Costco stores last year, but the trial ended just a few months later. Dickerson initially said Costco was making room on its shelves for its holiday assortment, but neither company has specified why the partnership ended for good.
In January, Blue Apron rolled out Knick Knacks, a new product that bundles sauces, grains, dairy, spices and step-by-step recipes that customers then pair with their choice of a retailer's produce or protein. The new line, available on Jet.com's City Grocery service, has a longer shelf life than traditional meal kits and focuses on culinary inspiration, which Dickerson said at the time is Blue Apron's specialty.
The company has launched various other promotions aimed at boosting engagement, including a virtual road trip across the U.S. offering subscribers recipes from eight popular cities.
Blue Apron faces numerous challenges as retailers and direct competitors like HelloFresh continue to advance their meal kit offerings. But research shows there's still untapped consumer demand out there, with an estimated 93 million who haven't tried meal kits but want to, according to NPD.
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