Blue Apron, one of the largest meal-kit-to-your-door startups in a $1.5 billion a year annual U.S. market, plans to open a large fulfillment center in central Solano County likely staffed with hundreds of employees.
The 4-year-old New York-based company has leased a 430,000-square-foot distribution warehouse under construction in Fairfield.
It’s expected to open sometime next year. The center will be similar to an operation announced Feb. 6 and scheduled to open later this year in a New York suburb, according to Pablo Cussatti, senior vice president of operations and fulfillment. When the new East Coast hub opens in the next few months, it will look similar to what’s planned for Fairfield, he said.
“They are really the fulfillment centers of the future,” Cussatti said.
The new 495,000-square-foot Linden, N.J., facility and the one going into the Gateway80 Business Park project on Cordelia Road in south Fairfield just off Interstate 80 will complement Blue Apron’s existing fulfillment centers, located in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Richmond; Arlington, Texas; and Jersey City, N.J., Cussatti said.
The new locations will differ from the nearby Richmond and Jersey City sites by being more automated and efficiently planned for the flow of ingredients in and the packaged meals and accessories out to consumers. Cussatti declined to elaborate on what’s in store inside.
THREE TIMES THE SIZE OF RICHMOND
Though Fairfield and Richmond are only about 30 miles apart, the company plans to operate both sites for the “foreseeable future,” he said.
“We still have needs in both facilities,” he said.
The Richmond facility opened in 2013, a year after the company started, and now employs about 1,200. The forthcoming Solano location will have three times as much space, with room for growth, Cussatti said. Blue Apron plans initial Linden employment of 2,000-plus, with continued hiring as needed.
“We don’t know yet how many positions are going to be open,” Cussatti said about the Fairfield site. Job fairs to staff that facility likely will be held next year, he said.
Both Richmond and Fairfield put the company’s distribution hubs close next to interstate highway and near the ports of Oakland and San Francisco for fresh and sustainably sourced ingredients, such as fish and imported grass-fed New Zealand beef, Cussatti said. The region also has access to producers in Oregon and Washington.
“I can’t source everything locally, but we’re working with local farmers to match what they’re producing with our meals,” he said. “That’s why we’re strategically positioned in Northern California.”
TOP OF $1.5B MARKET
Started in 2012, Blue Apron has risen quickly to the top of roughly 150 companies competing in the market to deliver meals or ingredients kits to U.S. consumers, according to the Wall Street Journal. The publication noted challenges various business models have encountered and some investor hesitance to back more ventures in this space.
For meals, Blue Apron offers two plans that average $8.74 per meal for a family and $10 for two people.
In addition to selling kits and kitchen accessories, Blue Apron has a wine subscription for $66 a month. That provides six 500-millilliter bottles of wine, enough to amply fill two glasses. As it does with the meals, the company sources the grapes directly from growers, some in Napa Valley, and has the wine made and bottled under its own labels.