Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. And you can look no further than the navigation app in your smartphone to see that this can indeed be so.
And here’s another truth: lots of people like to drink freshly squeezed juice, and in Silicon Valley, folks are partial to boutique “cold-pressed” squeezings that cost 10 times the average daily wage in much of the developing world.
Add this: there’s an on-demand element here, and we know how much American urbanites love that.
Put those realities together and you have Juicero, a San Francisco startup that raked in $120 million in funding.
That may seem like an awful lot of money for a company making a juicer, even a smart one that connects to the internet.
But there’s more to it: not only would customers have the privilege of owning the prestigious $399 juice-maker, they would be able to get the individual juice packs it requires delivered weekly, “chilled at a perfect 41 degrees,” according to the company.
And with the accompanying mobile app, Juicero users can read about the farms that produced the fruits and veggies in the $5 to $8 juice packs, and about the nutritional content, along with monitoring personal use of the connected juice-making device.
The juice packs are full of chopped fruit and vegetables, and it takes the $399 Juicero device — which exerts a force sufficient to lift up two Teslas, according to founder Doug Evans — to squeeze the juice out of them and into a container on its way to your gullet.
Actually, that last bit’s not true, apparently.
“After the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands,” Bloomberg reported April 19.
“Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it.”
A Bloomberg reporter conducted a test, and found that “squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device,” according to the news outlet.
Among the investors — which included Google’s parent firm Alphabet and Silicon Valley VC titan Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers — was Doug Chertok, according to Bloomberg. Chertok told the news outlet that he’d discovered the juice packs could be squeezed by hand, but said he was still a “huge fan.”
The startup, Chertok said, represented a new model for food delivery.
“Juicero is still figuring out its sweet spot,” he said. “I have no doubt that they’ll be very successful.”
Maybe they just need to make the juice packs harder to squeeze.
Update: On April 20, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn took to Medium to defend the company’s juice-pack-pressing device. The press allows the firm to remotely disable packs if they contain items that are recalled; the consistent pressing provides “the best combination of taste and nutrition every time;” and the connectivity to the internet allows Juicero to manage a supply chain of produce with only an eight-day lifespan, Dunn said.
“The sum of the system — the Press, Produce Packs and App — working together is what enables a great experience,” Dunn said in the post.
“However, you won’t experience that value by hand-squeezing Produce Packs, which to be clear, contain nothing but fresh, raw, organic chopped produce, not juice.
“What you will get with hand-squeezed hacks is a mediocre (and maybe very messy) experience that you won’t want to repeat once, let alone every day.”
For the next 30 days from April 20, Juicero will refund the purchase price of the press to any dissatisfied customers, Dunn said.
Photo: Fruit (Wikimedia Commons)