For a couple of years now, cold-press-juice enthusiasts have been sinking large sums of money into Juicero, the maker of a $400 juice machine described as “the Keurig of juice” because it magically turns fruit and vegetable packets into healthy drinks. The company’s raised more than $120 million from companies like Google Ventures and Campbell — wild enough success for founder Doug Evans to call himself the Steve Jobs of juicing. The pricey single-serving packets run another $7 or so apiece, which, continuing the Keurig metaphor, is like if your K-Cup pod cost as much as a single-origin pour-over.
Technology never comes cheap, though, and this device is Wi-Fi ready and reportedly contains 400 “custom” parts. Evans actually started delineating them once for Recode: “There’s two motors, there’s 10 printed circuit boards, there’s a scanner, there’s a microprocessor, there’s a wireless chip, wireless antenna. There’s 775 aircraft-grade aluminum. There’s a gear box. There’s latches that support 16,000 pounds of force …”
Sounds high-tech and all, but Bloomberg reports today that the kitchen gadget has a little-known other feature: Those juice packs can be squeezed by hand. Investors say it makes them furious to learn this — that, in effect, customers can “achieve similar results” without using Juicero’s machine. Juicero has chosen not to comment so far, but someone “close to the company” claimed it’s aware that packs can be hand-squeezed, only customers don’t care because pushing a button and walking off is “less messy.”
Reporters at Bloomberg also conducted their own juice-press test by “pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip.” The reporter’s grip won. “Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half,” as the story recounts. “The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes.”
At least two investors say Evans wouldn’t have gotten any of their money if they’d known he was “hawking bags of juice that didn’t require high-priced hardware.” But not all of Juicero’s backers see the hand-juicing feature as a deal-breaker. Vast Ventures’ Doug Chertok, who has also invested in Sweetgreen, says he figured the shortcut out all on his own. “There is no doubt the packs can be squeezed without the machine,” he tells Bloomberg, but adds: “I’m still a huge fan.”