Whatever the reasons, it turns out the majority of customers ditch their HelloFresh subscriptions after receiving only a few boxes

By the end of the year, meal-kit companies are lucky if they’ve retained 15 percent of their original subscriber base, and the numbers dwindle from there

One month later, HelloFresh’s board took a further step, approving a plan to buy back shares from Richter, Griesel, and other early employees in a deal that collectively netted the two founders over $10 escort girl Pearland million. The founders, who together own more than six million shares and hold nearly eight million call options, were already on to the next phase of their plan: an IPO.

HelloFresh, in its assertive way, was attempting to address what has emerged as a fundamental problem with the meal-kit business: People quit

“Thin twirls of the green vegetable are almost too pretty to eat.”–From “Caramelized Shallot Risotto With Lemony Zucchini Ribbons,” HelloFresh recipe WK 11 NJ-8

If you live in a major city, chances are at some point you’ve been hounded, cornered, or harassed on the street by what one former Dutch HelloFresh customer dubbed “foodjehovas” (translation: food Jehovahs). If you think the company is aggressive in signing you up, wait till you hear customers’ stories of trying to quit. In , the customer in the Netherlands who had tried and failed to get HelloFresh to stop contacting him after canceling the service wrote a profanity-laced Medium post railing against the hyper-aggressive tactics of the startup, comparing HelloFresh to some combination of stalker ex-boyfriend, religious proselytizer, and mobster. “Fuck you, HelloFresh,” the post, which went viral, began. “You push us around, disrespect our boundaries and you take our lunch money.”

Why? Perhaps the novelty wears off, or there’s guilt about all the wasteful packaging, or simply because they are too lazy to cook a gourmet meal every night. The idea that these subscriptions would generate enough cash to cover the sizable marketing cost was wishful financial modeling. “It required a leap of faith,” says Ellie Wheeler of Greycroft.

But now, as HelloFresh and Blue Apron pass their sixth birthdays, they know what the quit rates (also known as churn rates) really are. While neither company discloses figures, third parties including Dan McCarthy, an Emory assistant professor of marketing, and Second Measure, a research firm that analyzes pools of credit card data, have examined the companies’ data. Their findings, which largely match up, paint a grim picture: Nearly half of subscribers of both services cancel within a month. Just 20 percent stay on as long as six months. What’s more, HelloFresh lags Blue Apron and other competitors in retention, often by several percentage points. The value of a subscriber is likely to be much lower than anyone thought.

Richter says this analysis is false on multiple levels, but won’t disclose retention figures or churn rates. “Retention is one of the strongest points of our business model. We’ve always been very, very happy with retention rates,” he says. When Inc. asked to connect with HelloFresh’s longest-standing customers, the best the company could provide was a woman who had been featured in a company TV ad, and another who’d been with the service for five months.

Critics worry these high churn rates may prove fatal. “At some point, they’d go through millions of people who had tried the services who had churned out, and what would they be left with?” says Nikhil Basu Trivedi, a partner at Shasta Ventures who considered investing in Plated, Green Chef, and Sun Basket but ultimately passed. “There are a number of ways these businesses can be profitable, but at the end of the day it’s a tradeoff between growth and profitability, right? You can’t make the math work for both.”

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