What you need to know about Juicero, the new controversial juicer

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Everyone’s talking about Juicero, a just-launched, cold-pressed juicer for home use that’s incredibly novel in its ability to liquify your veggies. The San Francisco start-up has raised a whopping $100 million from investors and is about to raise more.

Given the serious financial heft behind this company and the healthy kitchen gadget’s $699 price tag, Juicero is being called everything from “revolutionary” and “the Keurig of juicers” for its single-serve style—to overpriced, and thus not capitalizing on the opportunity to get more people juicing.

Juicero is the brainchild of Doug Evans, a juice industry veteran. With vegan visionary Denise Mari, Evans grew Organic Avenue from Mari’s Lower East Side Manhattan apartment to a popular, 10-location juice bar business with purist leanings. It was acquired by Weld North, which installed Pret-a-Manger’s CEO to turn it into a vegan Pret. (Weld North, and Mari’s exit, is credited with running it into the ground, though financial challenges preceded the sale.)

With Juicero, Evans’s idealistic juice ethos is reborn—to make “high-quality organic, nutritious, fresh-in-the-moment juice,” he said, while demo-ing the machine in Manhattan a couple weeks back.

To that end, Juicero manufactures both a stylish countertop juicer (it looks like a drool-worthy Apple product) and its own proprietary ingredient packs filled with organic produce, chopped in very specific ways, that make an 8-ounce drink. (Most bottles of cold-pressed juice are 12 or 16 ounces.) Neither the juicer nor the juice packets are cheap. Juicero costs $699 plus the juice packets ($7-$10 each), and distribution is currently limited to California.

The steep price and some of its high-tech features are prompting a lot of questions about this premium juicer.

Here’s what you need to know about Juicero—what it is, how it works, and what juice junkies and the media are saying.

The pros: Juicero is an intriguingly innovative kitchen appliance for juice aficionados (and lazy people)

It’s a Keurig for juice. You don’t buy produce, you buy Juicero’s organic ready-to-juice packs. They come in five pre-chopped blends such as Spicy Greens ($7) and Sweet Roots ($6). Juicero’s village-size facility near Irvine locally sources, triple-washes, and pre-chops the produce “ideal for nutrition and absorption,” Evans explains. So, in his quest to create a “farm-to-glass” juice, Evans has tasked his company with being involved in the entire produce supply chain.

It’s smarter than your Vitamix and way quieter. You open the juicer door, line up the packet with a QR code-reader that tells the machine what you’re about to sip, how much force to apply, and for how long, and you press a button. “The force and time varies [per blend] to open up the fiber—45 seconds to almost 3 minutes,” explains Evans. There’s no need to add water. The machine hum is audible but at a friendly decibel that won’t have your neighbors pounding your door at 6 a.m. like a regular juicer or blender.

You never, ever have to clean it. If you’ve ever hated your juicer for giving you more to clean up than actual juice, you’ll understand Juicero’s unique value proposition here. It dispenses the juice at a non-splashy pace, and the machine neatly discards the pulp (in a surprisingly dry state I’d call soup-stock-worthy) neatly back into the packet. “It’s an entirely closed system,” notes Evans of Juicero’s no-disassembly, no-wash design.

Think: Industrial design meets home design. For three years Juicero’s been shrouded in Silicon Valley secrecy. Evans says he was tucked away with “a dozen PhDs from mechanical engineers and food safety experts to software designers” that he’d tapped to create the innovative cold-press juicer (and the elaborate packaging process). Given the force of this juicer, it should really be the size of a refrigerator, living in a manufacturing facility somewhere, “but instead it fits under your counter,” Evans explains. “It took this long to figure this out, and the surface area required that would not turn the ingredients into [much less delicious] sludge, which a lot of juicers will do,” says Evans.

The cons, and media criticism of Juicero

The business model and pricing, the conveniences that Juicero tries to solve for, and the brand’s “utopian” juicing standards have invited a lot of eye-rolling and criticism. Notably the following:

It’s cheaper to buy a pre-made organic juice. The ingredient packs, which The New York Times’ David Gelles viscerally compares to an IV bag, cost up to $10 each for an 8-ounce juice (not including shipping). And like produce, it’s a case of use them or lose them. You have to subscribe to a minimum of five packs per week. (Juicero’s Evans confirms they last about a week in the fridge.) As CNET lamented, “with packs priced between $7 and $10, the least you can expect to shell out (in addition to $699 for the press) is about $35 to $50 per week. That adds up to between $140 and $200 a month, or theoretically an eyebrow-raising $1,680 to $2,400 a year.”

It’s not environmentally friendly enough for a juice company. Eventually the juice packs will be recyclable through Terracycle, says Evans, though they’re not currently. And the company’s shipping methods (Uber and FedEx) may not appeal to Prius-driving juice lovers. “While it’s healthy to be drinking all these nutrients,” writes Digiday, “it might not be so healthy for the planet considering the number of plastic packages you’ll go through.”

The need for WiFi connection is freaking people out. Using WiFi, Juicero says it monitors the freshness of your current stash of product and auto-delivers more on ice packs to your door when you’re running low. The QR code also tells the juicer to abort its mission if you’ve blown past your expiration date, which The Verge called “ridiculous.” Since you have a weekly subscription of five packs, it’s unclear why you need the extra monitoring.

So much for getting great juice into food deserts. For the time being, Juicero is only available for sale in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, near the farms and Juicero’s production facility—and a dozen or so California juice bar chains. “[The company] is going after a user base to start that already knows the inconvenience of making their own juices or one that’s been hesitant to own a juicer themselves. Not one that doesn’t have a farmer’s market down the block,” writes Business Insider.

Juicero’s innovation doesn’t solve a big enough problem. The Times says Evans is making the “platonic ideal of juice.” And they’re right. Evans is critical of bottling practices like HPP, a high-pressure process that preserves the shelf-life of juice sold in stores (he believes the nutrition is compromised, though studies have not confirmed this). He also says that home-juicers squeeze out too much of the fiber, leaving you with a lot of sugar in your juice, and you can only make so much ahead before it oxidizes and spoils. While Evans’ standards might appeal to juice purists, despite its genre-busting innovation, Juicero doesn’t solve for the real issues of most people, the media has said—increased access to affordable organic green juice.

What else is new with juicing? For one, we’re seeing a move toward the green juice nightcap, which helps you detox while you sleep, and the modern apothecary trend is fusing juice bars with herbal mixologists for one-stop (super-healthy) shopping.

What are your thoughts on Juicero? Tell us in the Comments, below!

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