Blue Apron shares edged higher Thursday, their first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
But despite reaching as high as $11 a share — $1 above the IPO price — Blue Apron’s gains are dismal compared with other recent IPOs.
For instance: shares of the year’s most hyped IPO, Snap, popped 44 percent on the first trading day. But even less well-known companies saw big gains out of the gate.
To be sure, the first day of trading is no death sentence. Facebook went public on May 18, 2012, priced at $38 per share. It gained only 0.61 percent in its debut closing at $38.23. Snap, meanwhile, has seen shares fall more than 20 percent over the past three months.
“We’re cautious to read too much into Blue Apron’s trading activity today,” said Technomic’s Erik Thoresen. “This is an emerging market and growth is a long-term play. Blue Apron’s success will rely heavily on converting consumers to new ways of sourcing food at home.”
And comparing a food-delivery start-up to a software company isn’t exactly apples-to-apples. Blue Apron is the only meal-kit delivery start-up to go public so far. US Foods, a food distributor that went public last year, gained 8.3 percent in its first trading day.
“I think their public offering is a great mark of validation for the category overall, and aligns with the trends towards an e-commerce-driven world,” said Andy Levitt, CEO of Purple Carrot. “Customers in general are not going into malls; they’re buying goods online. The meal kit market — and the grocery space overall — is ripe for disruption and improvement. This IPO and what comes from it is going to be good for customers, and for investors as well.”
But for investors who backed Blue Apron’s Series D funding round at around $13.33 a share, there may be high expectations for a big payoff.
“I think the trading level reflects the understanding that this is not a business where growth will come easily and quickly. That is not to say that Blue Apron’s business model is poor, just that it faces a whole host of challenges that need to be factored into the stock price,” said Neil Saunders of GlobalData.
“I daresay that Blue Apron hoped to benefit from Wall Street’s traditional over-optimism when it comes to online and digital companies. However, I think investors are awake and smelling the coffee on this one.”
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Snap.