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Fascinating story from Bloomberg about the $400 Juicero machine, which was developed by a startup company that attracted some $120 million in Silicon Valley investment capital and was described as a "Keurig for juice" - offering "an internet-connected device that transforms single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage."

Key to the business model was the fact that not only did one have to buy the $400 juicing machine, but once that commitment was made, it was necessary to buy the ingredient packets - for $5 to $8 apiece - that would be turned into juice. For Juicero and its investors, it was seen as the gift that would keep on giving.


While Juicero founder Doug Evans would claim that his juice press exerted four tons of force during the juicing process, or "enough to lift two Teslas," it ends up that his claims may have been a bit of hyperbole.

Bloomberg writes that "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. 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. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. 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."
KC's View:
Gee, that must be kind of embarrassing.

Now, a couple of things here. I had a chance to see the machine last summer at the Organic Produce Summit (and see Evans speak). I thought the machine was interesting and the juice tasty, but way overpriced for all but a few folks. I always thought that the machines might be better suited to a commercial environment, where gourmet juice could be sold to consumers. And, I thought that Evans had an interesting story, if a somewhat enlarged ego. (He likes to compare himself to Steve Jobs. Give me a break.)

Juicero has responded to the negative publicity - and the pasting it has been taking on social media - by offering consumers the ability to return the machines for a full refund. This isn't the first time that Juicero has had to do a little back-pedaling ... the machine used to cost $700 and they reduced the price to $400 to make it more accessible.

For the most part, though, the company has defended itself, saying the machine is a unique experience, and that the packets have greater quality control than fresh fruits and veggies.

I'm not sure that Juicero's hyperbole is the worst thing in the world. They could be selling worse products, and their target customer would seem to be one that is willing to use ample disposable income for toys like these.

But I do think that one piece of the company's current strategy - limiting sales of the packets to people who actually own the machine - speaks volumes about what may be a core insecurity about the hardware it has been selling. The sum of the parts, high tech though they may be, may in fact be less than the whole.