Juicero is a San Francisco-based company that created an eponymous product pegged as the “Keurig for juice.” The Juicero turns fresh, recently-packaged organic fruit/vegetable blends into cold-pressed juice with zero prep work and zero cleanup, making it perfect for on-the-go juice lovers who otherwise wouldn’t have the time to create their own freshly-squeezed concoctions. The Juicero is also connected to WiFi and your phone, allowing for you to enhance your Juicero experience via a host of beneficial softwares.
For more info, check out this commercial for Juicero.
A week ago, on April 19, Bloomberg posted a video about the Juicero that went viral and sent the company into a PR crisis tailspin. In said video, a Bloomberg reporter is recorded getting the same amount of juice out of Juicero’s pouches not with the company’s $400 juice press, but with their $0 bare hands.
The internet went wild, with the public’s opinion settling on the $400 Juicero being a completely worthless product since the same work that would be done by the $400 juicer can be done for free manually.
A day after Bloomberg’s video was released, Jeff Dunn, CEO of Juicero, took to Medium to defend the Juicero juicer (Dunn refers to is as the “Press”) as well as Juicero’s software. To put my forthcoming defense of Juicero in better context, I strongly recommend reading Dunn’s response in full by clicking here.
After reading all the takedowns and defense pieces, I think the side to take in this debacle is pretty damn obvious: Juicero doesn’t deserve all the flak they’re getting.
The main argument I’ve seen for why Juicero is “the poster child for scummy, unnecessary, VC-hungry startups” — or some variant — is that the $400 juicer is an unnecessary appliance because the Juicero pouches can be squeezed by hand with similar results.
The easiest response to this argument comes about when these two stills I took from the Bloomberg video are placed back-to-back.
As Bloomberg stated, you have no access to the Juicero pouches unless you own a Juicero juicer, so yes — you still do need an expensive juice machine to produce either and both of the results Bloomberg is showcasing, making it a necessary appliance in this scenario. Juicero created the pouches, so they have complete control over how, why, and to whom they sell them, which is why they only sell them to Press owners.
But that argument’s not enough to soothe the Juicero haters, who will follow up by pointing out that Juicero should just open up pouch purchasing to those without Juiceros instead of charging them $400 for a device that does what they can do themselves.
So why don’t they do this? Because there’s technology built into the Press that’s essential to the Juicero experience (and the reason why the Press costs so much money). Juicero isn’t just an expensive pouch presser; if they were, this bad PR would mean a death sentence for them, as a competitor would come along any day now and create a hand-squeezed juicer pouch to put them out of business. Juicero is millions of dollars of research and development’s worth of sensors, app development, and other technologies designed to create a unique and integrated user experience.
Here’s what Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn has to say about the Press in his Medium piece:
Our connected Press itself is critical to delivering a consistent, high quality and food safe product because it provides:
1. The first closed loop food safety system that allows us to remotely disable Produce Packs if there is, for example, a spinach recall. In these scenarios, we’re able to protect our consumers in real-time.
2. Consistent pressing of our Produce Packs calibrated by flavor to deliver the best combination of taste and nutrition every time.
3. Connected data so we can manage a very tight supply chain, because our product is live, raw produce, and has a limited lifespan of about 8 days.
Along with these features, Juicero’s Press also sends notifications to your phone to remind you to use your Produce Packs before they reach their expiration date.
Juicero created these pouches to be used alongside their tech, and since it’s all their intellectual property, you’re forced to either deal with it or not purchase a Juicero. To claim they’re not selling their pouches separately for no reason at all, or to goad you into buying the $400 Press, is to not understand technology’s effect on business, capitalism, and consumption.
In the past, good business was seen as providing a product or service quicker and cheaper than all your competitors. The advent of technology has seen a paradigm shift in this space, where consumers will now pay a premium for a company’s ability to provide them with what was previously considered simply an effect of their product — transcription to concepts.
Convenience. Trendiness. Connectivity. All these are concepts to which Juicero users can transcribe as a result of using the Press that pouch squeezers cannot. Even if Juicero were to openly sell pouches, squeezing a bag of puree until it squirts juice into a cup isn’t convenient nor trendy, nor does it make the person doing the squeezing a “user” who can feel connected to something. Placing a pouch into the Juicero and receiving juice moments later, after the pouch passes safety tests and has been pressed to exact specifications — and maybe even after you received a phone notification reminding you to use your pouch before it expires — leads you to experience all three of them. It sounds absurd and slightly Black Mirror-y, but when broken down, that’s what’s going on.
This effect of technology isn’t specific to Juicero, either. Another example of people paying more for technology’s fomentation of concept transcription when the end result is otherwise the same is on-demand delivery apps like UberEats, Favor, Postmates, etc. Remember back before these apps, when you’d call restaurants directly? Back when you had to expend the effort to talk to a stranger on the phone, had to look at a paper or online menu during/beforehand, got no updates on the status of your delivery, and had inaccurate ETAs? It was an annoying time, and you most likely don’t do it anymore because of how inconvenient and disorganized it was. But it was also cheaper. You can make the case that the Juicero costs too much just as you can make the case that anything else available for purchase is overpriced. But you can’t say that at least part of what you’re paying for are its added benefits, however intangible they may be.
While it’s true that one major benefit of these on-demand delivery apps is that they’ll deliver food from restaurants that don’t otherwise offer delivery, the fact that you probably can’t tell me with certainty that any of the restaurants you’ve ever used one of these apps to order from offers traditional delivery serves to bolster my point. Why go through the effort of calling in and seeing if the restaurant offers traditional delivery when you know its presence in the app means its guaranteed? That’d be inconvenient.
After all the previous points are brought up to Juicero haters, they, in their reluctance to admit defeat, will undoubtedly bring up the plastic waste (from the pouches) and food waste (from the leftover pulp) involved with the Juicero. Unbeknownst to them, Juicero is working on biodegradable pouches and also lists a plethora of recipes using your pouches’ leftover pulp on their website. And there are probably passable responses to any other complaints waged against Juicero despite the public’s thirst for their cold-pressed blood.
I just really don’t think this story is as hilarious as it seems on the surface. The proprietary technology Juicero has developed is pretty revolutionary. Is it a little overpriced? Maybe. Do they come off a little more self-righteous than they ought to be in terms of how big a difference they believe they’re making in people’s lives (see Dunn’s article for examples)? Maybe. But what do you want them to be, unenthusiastic about their product? They’re trying to market it as a lifestyle product, so they need to convince people it can change their lives — which it can; it’s just not for everyone. So if you can’t afford it or don’t like it, don’t buy it.
TL;DR — You don’t have a problem with Juicero, you have a problem with the fact that there’s no hand-squeezed alternative to Juicero. And hell, now there probably will be, so have at it when it drops. That’s capitalism for ya..
Image via YouTube/Juicero