The first question in the FAQ section of Juicero's website is "How do I make juice?" The answer is a five-step process, starting with "Take a pack from the Juicero carton in your refrigerator." The next three steps involve properly situating the pack in your $400 Juicero machine, hanging it on a small internal hook, and pressing the LED start button. But, as Bloomberg recently discovered, the real answer is "Step 1: Squeeze that pack with your own bare hands," no expensive juicer required.
Juicero has been the delight of Silicon Valley for the better part of a year, as backers excitedly threw more than $120 million into the startup. The company's founder, Doug Evans, was a longtime proponent of the organic, fresh-squeezed, cold-press lifestyle, having previously founded juice bar chain Organic Avenue. Evans then turned his attention to in-home juicing, developing Juicero, which he hoped would do for juice what the Keurig has done for coffee—albeit with a much higher price point. (Although Juicero currently retails for $400, its original price was an even loftier $699.)
A profile on the startup published in The New York Times late last month describes how "Mr. Evans began hiring software engineers, mechanical engineers, food scientists and app developers" to perfect the machine. "It wasn't long before Mr. Evans realized he needed still more money. The innards of the machine were complex but manageable. It was the software, the production facility, the electrical testing and a thousand other things that necessitated a bigger staff." In other words, making the appliance was very expensive and very complicated.
"I worked on this for 33 months in stealth," Evans said last September on Recode's Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast. "With a hundred people working on this. And I look at this as one of the most significant things to impact human health on a global basis."
That would be a pretty grandiose statement even if Juicero worked as Evans had hoped. (That sound you hear is the polio vaccine guffawing in Evans' direction.) But it didn't. Bloomberg spoke with several investors who were disappointed that their money went to what is essentially a $400 Wi-Fi enabled paperweight.
"Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter's grip," Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski wrote. "The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device."
Yes; in other words, the machine—which Evans brags exerts four tons of force, "enough to lift two Teslas"—is completely extraneous. You can squeeze the bags, which are about five bucks each, with your bare hands for almost identical results.
Juicero is standing behind its product, keeping a straight face as it insists that you still need this machine. (Juicero's juice packs are only available to those who own the juicer and, even then, the packs can currently be shipped to an anemic 17-state territory.) The company says that the machine is essential because it "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." But, um, that same expiration date is printed right there on the pack.
The internet is ROFLing like crazy over the whole thing, which played out like some sort of contemporary fable meant to teach a lesson to Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
In 2017, this almost makes perfect sense.