Venture capital investors hoped to punch their meal tickets with delivery subscription deals - but after Blue Apron's ($APRN) disappointing IPO, more than 100 companies that bring ready-to-make packaged ingredients to consumers' homes fell out of favor.
HelloFresh ($PRIVATE:HELLOFRESH) seems to have bucked the trend, though. The German startup has been backed with more than $350 million in capital from boldface investors like Institutional Venture Partners and Rocket Internet, the Berlin Internet investor that has served as a funding funnel for other leading e-commerce companies. As competitors are seeing slumping social trends and hiring data, HelloFresh looks like the one outlier in a space that still has the potential to disrupt brick-and-mortar grocers in a multi-billion dollar race to recurring revenue.
HelloFresh is still expanding - our first chart tracks job listings; and the company has steadily sought to grow, more than doubling postings from where they stood about 18 months ago. This certainly isn't the case for every HelloFresh competitor, as our next chart reflects. Sun Basket ($PRIVATE:SUNBASKET), the West Coast organic meal kit company, has seen virtually all job openings reduced this year.
Our first HelloFresh chart tracked the posting for people it wants to hire; the one above tracks headcount as listed by LinkedIn ($MSFT) profiles that list the company as the user's current employer. Again, HelloFresh is a rare example of a meal subscription company that has continually added staff. The same cannot be said for Blue Apron, one of its primary competitors.
There's something to be said for a brand that can see much of its competitors be stifled by the unpopularity of one IPO, only to maintain consumers' interest. And, again, it looks like HelloFresh has beaten some of its competitors at this game, too.
he company's Facebook ($FB) Talking About Count measures the degree to which consumers are bringing up a brand on the social network, and being able to garner tens of thousands of mentions on Facebook with its US platform (HelloFresh has numerous Facebook pages for individual countries) stands out - especially next to some of its competitors. As for Home Chef ($PRIVATE:HOMECHEF), its social media traffic has not stood out - like so many other meal delivery startups that couldn't maintain momentum after picking up funding when the sector was white hot.
There is still a rough path ahead for disruptors - even HelloFresh was losing most of its customers in the long run, according to a 2018 WSJ report. But the data still suggests it is a standout, and as a once-crowded herd of competitors is thinned out, HelloFresh could be poised to benefit from a little natural selection.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.