7 Things We Learned About The Rapid Expansion Of Meal Kit Service Blue Apron

Image courtesy of Robert Nelson

If you haven’t yet tried the meal kit service Blue Apron, you’ve probably read about it somewhere, or seen one of its many, many ads online or on TV. Yet who is on the other end of the transaction, making sure that you have your tiny bag of cilantro and packing the ice with your catfish filets? An army of blue-collar workers in one of three chilly warehouses make these meal boxes happen.

Buzzfeed recently investigated what it’s like to work at this lowest rung of the company, including violence at work and workplace safety issues. Check out the full investigation, but here are some highlights of what we learned from the piece:

  1. If the company’s recipes intrigue you, but you prefer to do your own shopping, they’re all available online for non-subscribers. You have to know where to find shishito peppers or champagne vinegar, or make some judicious substitutions, but it’s cool that the company’s cookbook is open.
  2. Co-founder and chief operating officer Matt Wadiak is the person in charge of the company’s warehouses, but he has no experience in warehouses. Kitchens, definitely: he’s a chef, but he didn’t know anything about the logistics of running a warehouse. That’s a problem when it’s how the company reaches all of its customers.
  3. Blue Apron aims to waste only about 3% of the food in its supply stream, compared to about 10% of all food across the country being thrown out. The trade-off for that is tight supplies: early employees recount having to run out to Whole Foods when there wan’t enough of a certain ingredient to go around.
  4. It’s a stressful and hectic workplace. “One day in pack-out could be worse than an entire Black Friday at Best Buy, as far as stress goes,” one former employee who presumably used to work at Best Buy told Buzzfeed.
  5. As you might expect for a warehouse full of refrigerated food, it’s cold. The whole building is kept at about 40 degrees, and employees are issued cold-weather gear but not, say, gloves.
  6. The company’s Bay Area facility is in the city of Richmond, a rough part of the region that has a large blue-collar workforce glad for work in a warehouse, but also a history of gang conflict and violence. When ramping up its workforce, the company didn’t screen workers all that well, and had so many violent incidents that the police had friendly chats with management.“Whatever dynamics you see in the city itself are going to manifest themselves into another environment when you bring people together that don’t always get along or have other problems in their lives,” a police officer who toured the facility when he worked in Richmond told Buzzfeed. It’s the responsibility of the employer to hire local managers who understand how these complex dynamics work, and the article claims that Blue Apron didn’t.
  7. Safety risks happen out of proportion to the workforce’s size. Maybe it’s the fast pace or some other factor, but neighboring warehouses, including others in the food service business and even nearby facilities for other meal kit companies don’t have as many citations by the state or OSHA for possible hazards.

The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Kit [Blue Apron]

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