Juicero is a start-up company that apparently wanted very much to disrupt the “juice space.” And in pursuit of that goal, its executives managed to convince Silicon Valley investors to pony up $120 million in seed money, which has led to the production of a $400 machine that squeezes bags of juice. But Bloomberg Technology reporters Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski zeroed in on an interesting fact behind all of Juicero’s hooplah: Apparently, bags of juice can be squeezed by an existing product called “the hand,” which in most instances retails for “free” and nearly just as often includes a “buy one, get one” option.
And “hands” apparently squeeze these bags of juice just as well as Juicero machines. Check it out:
And thus, Huet and Zaleski have answered an important inquiry: “Do you need a $400 juicer?” The answer is no. But having read their story, I still have so many questions! Let’s go through Bloomberg’s story and you’ll see what I mean.
One of the most lavishly funded gadget startups in Silicon Valley last year was Juicero Inc. It makes a juice machine. The product was an unlikely pick for top technology investors, but they were drawn to the idea of an internet-connected device that transforms single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage.
Why does your juicer need to be “internet-connected?”
Doug Evans, the company’s founder, would compare himself with Steve Jobs in his pursuit of juicing perfection. He declared that his juice press wields four tons of force—“enough to lift two Teslas,” he said.
Why does anyone need that much force to squeeze juice? I mean, you’d think that a machine that could lift just one Tesla would do the trick. “Not good enough,” Evans told his engineers, “I need that second Tesla’s worth of Newtons.” Maybe the original goal was to build a Two-Tesla Lifting Machine, and initial market research revealed scant demand for such a thing?
A person close to the company said Juicero is aware the packs can be squeezed by hand but that most people would prefer to use the machine because the process is more consistent and less messy.
Is it though? Here’s how I get juice. Open fridge, get juice, pour into glass, voila! I find it hard to believe that people “would prefer to use the machine.” (Also: “A person close to the company?” That person, close to the company, should have leveled with the company, saying something like, “I dunno, guys, a $400 bag squeezer? [Sound of sharp intake of breath.]”
The device also reads a QR code printed on the back of each produce pack and checks the source against an online database to ensure the contents haven’t expired or been recalled, the person said. The expiration date is also printed on the pack.
The creator of Juicero is something of a luminary in the world of juicing.
People can be that?
Evans, 50, follows a diet of mostly raw, vegan foods. Technology was a new thing for him, but he picked it up quickly.
Did he, though?
In fundraising meetings, Evans promised a revolutionary machine capable of squeezing large chunks of fruits and vegetables, said two people who agreed to invest in the company. Evans secured funding in 2014 by showing 3D-printed renderings of the product without a working prototype, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they signed nondisclosure agreements.
Did they also ask to not be identified because they look so foolish?
But after the product’s introduction last year, at least two Juicero investors were taken aback after finding the packs could be squeezed by hand.
Wait. They didn’t know that bags full of juice could be squeezed by hand?
Doug Chertok, a Juicero investor, said he figured it out on his own. “There is no doubt the packs can be squeezed without the machine,” he said. “I’m still a huge fan.”
Bu-bu-but ... how are you still a fan? Didn’t they basically take your money and set it on fire?
He said the company is a “platform” for a new model of food delivery, where fresh fruits and veggies are delivered regularly to the home.
“Juicero is still figuring out its sweet spot,” he said. “I have no doubt that they’ll be very successful.”
Someone just needs to build a bigger machine with the lifting force of seven Teslas to help find this sweet spot, no doubt. But what really went wrong here?
“It’s very difficult to differentiate yourself in the food and beverage sector,” said Kurt Jetta, who runs retail and consumer data firm Tabs Analytics. “Entrepreneurs may be tempted to have a technology angle when it’s not really there.”
And there it is.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.