Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) has no intention of buying Blue Apron Holdings (NYSE: APRN). Let's start there, because when we go spiraling down the circular staircase of speculative chatter, it's important to ground the discussion in reality. Global supply chains consultant Brittain Ladd is telling RetailWire that Starbucks should buy Blue Apron, but it's just an industry pro dreaming out loud. There is no reason to believe that Starbucks is even considering adding Blue Apron to his arsenal.
An outright buyout would be a stretch, and it's just part of the proposed pairing. Ladd's own dream scenario also has Blue Apron buying ICON Meals to give it a foothold in ready-to-eat meals and protein snacks business, so in a sense Starbucks would be getting both the meandering meal-kit provider and a leader in ready-to-eat solutions. Let's strip away the side deal for a moment and explore what Blue Apron in its present form could offer Starbucks. It's not going to happen, but it does have its merits. Let's go over a few of the reasons why Starbucks may want to put in an order for the novelty mail-order service for aspiring foodies.
Image source: Blue Apron.
1. Starbucks would help increase Blue Apron sales
Any positive momentum that Blue Apron had heading into last year's IPO is gone. The former meal-kit darling is coming off back-to-back quarters of double-digit declines in revenue. Starbucks as a parent would easily put an end to that unwelcome trend.
Blue Apron had 786,000 customers at the end of March. Starbucks serves more than 10 million customers a day. Brand awareness for Blue Apron would explode even before we consider Starbucks actually giving its growing customer count a nudge.
2. Blue Apron could drive sales when Starbucks needs it the most
Starbucks admitted earlier this year that it's having a problem drawing guests in the afternoon. Mornings are naturally strong when folks need that caffeinated pick-me-up to start the day, but there isn't a lot of incentive to hit up your local Starbucks later in the day.
"Just as we figured out and cracked the code with the morning daypart, we'll do the same with the afternoon," Howard Schultz told investors.
Blue Apron can help on that end. Let's make the logical conclusion that if Starbucks were to buy Blue Apron that it would start to offer the meal kits at its stores. These gourmet kits may not be as popular as the ready-to-eat fare that Starbucks offers, but the convenience of simple-to-make meals with quality ingredients could be a dinner bell -- literally and figuratively -- at the local Starbucks during the part of the day when it's hungry for traffic. Commuters on the way home could stop by and pick up their meal kits.
3. Food is more than just a hobby at Starbucks
Starbucks is famous for its beverages, but it made its intentions for heartier fare clear when it acquired the La Boulange bakery brand in 2012. Blue Apron may be out of favor with investors -- trading at roughly a quarter of last year's IPO price -- but it's a valuable brand among foodie fans of its meal kits.
Blue Apron would allow Starbucks to branch out beyond baked goods and protein boxes for customers willing to put in the elbow grease to cook at home. Starbucks has been hesitant to branch out into more savory fare in the past because of the aroma that would overtake its stores, but that's why Blue Apron's meal kits are a brilliant workaround.
A buyout is not going to happen, but it doesn't mean that it wouldn't make sense to both companies if it did.
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