Juicero became the laughingstock of the tech industry last week after Bloomberg revealed that its custom fruit and vegetable packs could be squeezed into juice by hand. But it turns out that Juicero’s big and expensive juicer really is no joke.
Ben Einstein, a founder at the venture capital firm Bolt, took apart a Juicero juicer piece by piece to see what made the device — which currently sells for $399 and went for $699 at launch — so expensive. It turns out, the juicer really is an impressive piece of hardware. It just happens to be one that was designed with quite a bit of excess.
Einstein calls Juicero’s press an “incredibly complicated piece of engineering” that was assembled “with great attention to detail.” Breaking it open, he found a surprising number of machined and custom parts, which he suspects is one reason the juicer got so expensive.
“It’s clear that cost savings was not anywhere near a top priority for Juicero when designing this product (or if it was, something went horribly wrong),” Einstein writes. He also points to an “expensive process” for “fancy plastics” and “unnecessary complexity” in the design, such as a door-locking mechanism that involves more than two dozen parts.
But his most interesting finding is that Juicero’s juicer really does appear to be capable of putting out the kind of strong, controlled force the company promised it would use to squeeze the juice out of fruits and vegetables. “The machine must apply equal pressure to ~64 square inches of surface area at once,” Einstein writes, “meaning the drivetrain must be able to apply thousands of pounds of force to squish all that produce.”
On one hand, that means Juicero wasn’t quite misleading anyone with its juicer. It truly is an expensive product capable of delivering large amounts of force to precisely juice produce. On the other hand, Juicero put a ton of money and effort into something that could have been accomplished much cheaper if it had been willing to accept a less precise squeeze — say, something similar to what’s accomplished by hand.
Had Juicero’s engineers gone for a “more focused” method of delivering force, Einstein writes, “it could easily save hundreds of dollars off the shelf price of the product.”
As a startup investor himself, Einstein is fairly critical of the approach Juicero took. The company made huge investments into it hardware and a complicated produce supply chain to go along with it, without first checking to see if the idea clicked with consumers. That’s put Juicero in the situation it’s in now: stuck with a $399 juicer that isn’t even necessary to make juice.
Einstein’s entire piece is worth a read to see just how elaborate Juicero’s press really is. It’s also filled with plenty of photos of the machine’s custom parts.
All that said: Einstein’s venture capital firm is an investor in Kuvée, the makers of a $199 Wi-Fi-connected wine bottle that requires proprietary wine cartridges and, at least in our tests, doesn’t seem to keep wine much fresher than a typical bottle despite the company’s promises. So while Einstein may have a point about Juicero, there’s probably something to be said about throwing juice packs in incredibly lavish glass houses.