Amazon has made no secret of its ambitions to expand into more fresh food services, from its own, homegrown efforts like AmazonFresh for groceries (first launched in 2013) and Amazon Restaurants for restaurant delivery (first launched in 2014), through to its most recent plan to acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. In fact, the company has its sights set on a number of other culinary areas, such as the development of its own farm-to-table products, Blue Apron-style meal kits, and other food fixes to help it better tap the $800 billion grocery opportunity.
Last week, as we nosed around the various trademarks that have been registered by Amazon to see if we could find anything linked to a new messaging app we believe it is working on, we stumbled upon a number of food-related trademarks.
Amazon this month filed a trademark (serial number 87517760) for "We do the prep. You be the chef," which relates to a meal-kit service similar to the kind offered by Blue Apron and others.
The filing is classically Amazon in its competitive boldness: it is dated July 6 -- coming just days after Blue Apron's rocky IPO. Blue Apron is down by 10.4 percent in trading this morning, very close to its lowest point.
Amazon describes the service simply: "Prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or and vegetables and also including sauces or seasonings, ready for cooking and assembly as a meal; Frozen, prepared, and packaged meals consisting of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables; fruit salads and vegetable salads; soups and preparations for making soups."
It looks like we are not the only ones to have noticed this meal kit filing in the last few days.
It turns out that, in fact, company in the last seven months had registered at least two other trademarks for slightly shorter versions of the same meal kit concept. Respectively, serial numbers 87418923 and 87256976 for "We prep. You cook" and "No-line meal kits," also relate to food-kit services along with marketing related to them. (We have not yet been able to find a filing for the actual brand name of such a service, or evidence of an actual launch.)
We have asked Amazon to comment on the trademarks, and we will update this post as we learn more.
In the meantime, the service would line up with other moves that Amazon has made in food, where it has developed services like delivery to rival existing, popular alternatives. Amazon puts a lot of instant pressure into the market when it decides it wants to do something: incumbents have gone through the sweat of building a base of users with a demand for a product, but once Amazon comes into the game, those incumbents are hard-pressed to compete with their bigger rival on price and logistics.
A meal kit service in particular also provides some proof to rumors we'd been hearing that the company had plans to build a meal kit clone, a rumor that surfaced around the time that Blue Apron filed for an IPO and intensified with the news about Whole Foods.
But if trademarks tell a kind of story, Blue Apron is not the only food service that Amazon has been slowly cooking up.
In all, there are 110 trademarks related to food filed by Amazon Technologies, with a strong theme of quick fixes.
Amazon also has been quietly developing its own lines of pre-made food aimed at people searching for more quality ingredients. The company has, for example, around 10 trademarks filed related to the phrase "single cow burger".
To be clear, this is actually related to a product Amazon already offers, Wagyu beef burgers made from grass-fed cattle raised on a farm in California. "How many cows does it take to make one burger? Thanks to Amazon, just one," the company writes in its marketing materials. "Our high-quality patties are made from one source and are available exclusively on AmazonFresh."
Looking through Amazon's food-related trademarks, it feels a little odd to see such a disproportionate amount of filings related to one single item, burgers. My theory: this is a testing ground for Amazon, which is watching these burgers to see how it might expand this kind of approach and branding into more pre-prepared items. In the future, Amazon would be able to source a wider range of products more easily, thanks to its ownership of Whole Foods, so food (and wine) could be the next frontier for Amazon's expansion of its own-label products.
This is something that Amazon has already started developing without much fanfare. A filing for another trademark, for "Some eat to live. We live to eat," is the tagline for Wickedly Prime, a new brand of snack foods and other prepared aimed at foodies that Amazon quietly launched earlier this year. The range currently features tea, chips and soups.
The focus on things like meal kits, snack items, and pre-made food also fits with Amazon's push for its express Prime membership service and general focus on convenience. That ethos is summed up in several other food-related trademarks the company filed in December 2016 for "Grab good food" and "Good food fast." Serial number 87256879 is quintessentially Amazon, very short and to the point: it is "Redefining fast."