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October 24, 2017

Meal-kit startup HelloFresh wants a $1.8bn valuation for its IPO – or will it go the way of Blue Apron?

After pulling out of floatation back in 2015, it’s official: HelloFresh is going public.

The meal-kit delivery startup is going to be targeting a $1.8bn valuation when it debuts on the Frankfurt stock exchange at the start of November.

Chief executive, Dominik Richter said he wants the company to “become the clear No.1 player on the US market in 2018”.

Whilst the company’s business plan is pretty straightforward, customers order meal kits online and then the company delivers recipes and all the ingredients suitable to make a gourmet meal, the future for HelloFresh is far from secure.

Will the HelloFresh IPO be make or break for the company?

HelloFresh is debuting on the stock exchange in an interesting market. US-based rival Blue Apron debuted earlier this year, with a valuation of $3.2bn. This was a great moment for a five-year-old startup.

However, after this is fell into a number of issues. E-commerce giant Amazon acquired Whole Foods soon after the Blue Apron IPO which turned the food industry on its head. Then, Amazon launched its own on-demand food subscription service.

Since then, Blue Apron has closed a facility in New Jersey, cut around 1,200 staff and had a nine percent decline in customers.

According to an investor presentation seen by Bloomberg, HelloFresh is confident it can overtake Blue Apron.

“We have huge momentum in the US market and are poised to overtake our biggest competitor in the near term. We have out-executed Blue Apron across all dimensions,” it said.

Are meal-kit delivery startups just not that sustainable?

One thing that is interesting about HelloFresh’s IPO bid is that its valuation target, $1.8bn, is less than its last supposed valuation. This was thought to be around $2.2bn, after a funding round last year.

As well, in 2015 when it was thought it would be going public, it was valued in a funding round for nearly $3bn.

Maybe a lower valuation will make the company safer.

In order to be successful, HelloFresh needs to ensure its customers are sticking around, something Blue Apron is not necessarily doing. Rob Kniaz, founding partner at early-stage investor firm Hoxton Ventures, told Verdict:

“It’s the same kind of problem with all these subscription services, customers in minus customers out. The average period of a customer for Blue Apron is three to six months. And then people get tired and move on to something new,” he said.

“I’m not sure of the core reasons; whether it’s psychological that people with any subscriptions get tired and quit, or they get tired of the recipes, or the recipes are changing.”

As well, Blue Apron and HelloFresh often offer heavy discounts to try and get new customers in. This will have to stop if HelloFresh wants to gain dominance in the market.

“[Discounting] doesn’t build an empire where customers are loyal and sticking around forever,” said Kniaz.

It looks like HelloFresh has a lot to prove, from IPO and beyond.

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