This week saw the latest chapter in the utterly wonderful saga of Juicero, the $US400 ($532) juice machine maker that attracted $US120 million ($160 million) in venture capital funding. On Wednesday, a bombshell Bloomberg report exposed the secret that threatened to ruin the company: You can get almost exactly the same juice without the company's expensive press by squeezing their damn bags yourself with the hands God gave you.
Today, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn hit back with a Medium post designed to dispel this misinformation and argue that you should not, in fact, attempt to squeeze the bag yourself. Do not squeeze the bag. Do NOT squeeze it.
After some boring crap about how having worked at Coca-Cola makes Dunn the best man to sell you juice, the Juicero CEO gets down to proving why his machine is good in the post. He links to a YouTube search for "keurig without machine", saying, "hacking consumer products is nothing new." The thing is… it isn't really a hack to do the thing a product is supposed to do with your bare hands, is it? You can't brew Keurig coffee by dribbling into the pod.
But how does Jeff Juice "demonstrate the incredible value we know our connected system delivers"? He has a three-point Actually:
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 flavour 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.
I am absolutely in love with the idea of a juice machine that physically prevents you from squeezing bad produce (including, as the site's FAQ makes clear, juice bags that are even a day too old). Perhaps we should connect ice cream makers to Wi-Fi so Weight Watchers can remotely prevent us from gorging ourselves? What about a little robot hand to physically slap the tainted bag out of your hand onto the floor?
As is the case with many Internet of Things products, connecting the machine to the internet opens many possibilities for hacking or failure. Imagine you buy the $US400 ($532) juicer and some 14-year-old hacker remotely disables your juice packs. Or what if your Wi-Fi is down? Can you still get the valuable juice? Not if you follow the company's advice to never, under any circumstances, squeeze that bag yourself.
The post goes fully off the rails when Mr Juice evokes the moving image of the juiceless masses, those who need Juicero to enhance their fractured modern lives:
The value is in how easy it is for a frazzled dad to do something good for himself while getting the kids ready for school, without having to prep ingredients and clean a juicer.
It's in how the busy professional who needs more greens in her life gets App reminders to press Produce Packs before they expire, so she doesn't waste the hard-earned money she spent on them.
It reads like a campaign speech. I believe in a country where no child goes hungry for cold-press juice from a bag, where no parent ever has to make a choice between washing a blender and giving their child perfectly-calibrated nutrients.
Juice Daddy even offers a video rebuttal to Bloomberg's video of their reporter squeezing the juice out without the aid of four tons of pressing power. In the video, posted by Juicero's head of communications Chrissy Trampedach, the bag is snipped open in the middle. We're then treated to the glorious image of someone (presumably Chrissy herself) reaching into the bag, fishing out a nice squishy handful of orange mulch and smushing it through her fingers. It sounds like someone performing intimate acts on a bowl of oatmeal.
More to the point, that isn't what the Bloomberg reporters did, nor what you'd need to do to extract Juicero juice without the machine. As the Bloomberg video shows, they snipped a little hole in the end, allowing them to squeeze the juice neatly into a cup. I don't know why Chrissy felt the need to squish that gunk through her hands, but it's her right to do so as a consumer.
Nothing in the post answers why investors interviewed by Bloomberg didn't know the juice could be squeezed without the Squeezebot 2000, nor why the thing costs more than a flight from DC to LA. But Juicy Jeff does offer refunds for any Juicero customers who want their money back, though I hope no one takes him up on the offer. I hope Juicero remains a part of our lives forever. I wish to marry a Juicero and have perfectly calibrated Juicero children. Long Live Juicero.
Update April 22 12:03PM: We received an important update from Olivia Zaleski, one of the Bloomberg reporters who squeezed the juice bags. According to Zaleski, they "didn’t snip a hole on the end of the bag as your article says", but "simply applied light pressure to the bag and the juice poured out".
"I know it’s hard to imagine that there is little more to this situation than a light squeeze," Olivia added. The juice, it seems, is somehow even easier to squeeze than we previously imagined.