If you haven’t noticed, HelloFresh has popped up in nearly every corner of the Internet. With ads on YouTube, podcasts, and social media, it’s likely your favorite creator probably partnered with HelloFresh at one point or another. Influencers praise the meal kit service for its convenience and emphasis on how simple a subscription makes cooking.

“Even though I like cooking, I still have days where I’d rather get it done as quickly as possible,” said Drew Gooden, a comedy YouTuber in a sponsored video from 2022. “And HelloFresh has a ton of meals you can make in…even 10 minutes, and they’re still delicious.”

Of course, Gooden is not the only creator who has raved about HelloFresh. YouTubers Danny Gonzalez, David Dobrik, Kurtis Conner, and Chad Chad have done partnerships as well, among a plethora of other creators.

Kelsey Kreppel, a lifestyle YouTuber with 1.02 million subscribers, even dedicated an entire series on her channel, Dinner with Kelsey, making use of her HelloFresh sponsorship to create cooking content.

“This Dinner with Kelsey is sponsored by HelloFresh,” Kreppel shared enthusiastically in her video. “HelloFresh makes cooking fun, makes cooking easy, and makes cooking affordable!”

But, outside of these peppy, energetic ads, there’s a different side to HelloFresh. While the brand has created an illusion of booming success and popularity online, it has actually consistently struggled to retain customers. In heavily concentrating its efforts in marketing and promotions, HelloFresh has neglected to develop loyal customers.

What is HelloFresh?

If you’re unfamiliar with the brand, HelloFresh is a meal kit service that sends all the ingredients you need to cook easy, convenient meals. Over 10 years ago, HelloFresh started in Berlin, Germany. Since then, it branched off into other brands (such as GreenChef and The Pet’s Table) and expanded to 17 more countries. By 2022, HelloFresh delivered over 1 billion meals and had 7.1 million active customers. 

A closer look into HelloFresh’s influencer marketing

HelloFresh really took off in the late-2010s, first picking up major profits in 2017, and coasting from there on out. A crucial piece of this success was its marketing strategy, which relies on influencers and creators spreading their praise about the product. 

Brittany Broski, who has 1.78 million subscribers on YouTube, is another example of this influencer marketing in practice.

“This took me maybe 30 minutes to make,” she said in a YouTube video, “but it’s actually like fresh produce, and fresh meat, it’s seasonal.” Broski then mentions in her video that her viewers can get eight free meals with her code BRITTANYBROSKI80.

Of course, these influencers get a slice of the commission aside from trying the service for free or for a fraction of the price. But, unsponsored reviews of HelloFresh are a lot more honest about HelloFresh’s flaws and frequently do not match the same level of satisfaction as sponsored ones.

“They’re not like very extravagant ingredients or anything at all [in the meal kit],” said Joyce, friend of Alyssa Varesio in an unsponsored YouTube video review. “You can literally recreate these recipes from what you find from the grocery store.” 

Others remark that the ease and convenience of HelloFresh is lacking — something the company prides itself on.

“As a college student, I wanna make sure I’m getting the nutrition I need, so I turned to HelloFresh” said Elise Dayley in a TikTok from September. “Yes, it has been good, but it also has been bad. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into making a dish, but there’s also a lot of time and effort in the cleanup."

Retention trouble

As of November 2023, HelloFresh’s shares have dropped a record 25%, and especially had trouble with profitability post-pandemic, according to Business Insider. Real consumers aren’t using HelloFresh, and if they are, 90% of them cancel within a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On YouTube, @sophiescuisine reviewed HelloFresh back in January, and at the time, enjoyed HelloFresh for “how simple yet flavorful each meal was.” She said the instructions were “easy to follow” and the ingredients were “mostly prepped.”

Months later, when asked if she still used the service, Sophie told Spoon in an email that she ultimately did not renew her subscription.

It seems that HelloFresh requires users to follow a strict meal plan and schedule — something that sometimes isn’t ideal long-term.

While throwing out tons of affiliate links and deals works to reel customers in, it isn’t very effective in the long run, according to Jacqueline Babb, Senior Lecturer and Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

“HelloFresh creates a wide funnel [with these deals],” said Babb. “It’s a volume game for them — lots of acquisition, but not a lot of retention.”

In prioritizing demand over sustainability, HelloFresh created a strong network of affiliates, but sacrificed a loyal customer base. It appears people often purchase the service initially upon the promise of a deal, but soon realize it’s not quite worth paying full price for.

What’s next for HelloFresh?

“If I were to give HelloFresh advice, it would be to expand into a different market,” said Babb. “They need diversification.”

Perhaps this diversification comes by way of focusing their efforts on consumer experience and product development, rather than just deals and influencer marketing. HelloFresh has surely made a name for itself through online advertising, but not so much in everyday life.