Doug Evans, the former CEO of now-defunct raw food and cold-pressed juice chain Organic Avenue, wasn’t satisfied with his options for at-home juicing.
Having departed Organic Avenue in 2013, Evans craved the experience of drinking juice freshly pressed at the company’s production facility and wanted to start making his own. But he was disappointed by countertop juicers on the market. They were clunky and messy and required “an arduous task” of buying, cleaning and chopping produce, he says. Then there was the actual process of juicing and the unpleasant task of having to clean all parts of the appliance.
Evans wanted a simpler way to juice. Juicero, a new countertop cold-press juicing system, is his brainchild. Launched yesterday, Juicero was a project over three years in the making and took Evans on a whirlwind journey of concept engineering, huge capital raises, and app-based technology.
With investment from a diverse range of companies, including Artis Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Campbell Soup Company, and First Beverage Group, Evans’ vision of a easy-to-use appliance and “farm-to-glass” experience has raised over $120 million to date. The funding has propelled Juicero into a sprawling company, with corporate headquarters in San Francisco and an 111,000 sq. ft. facility in Southern California where organic produce is processed and packaged for use with the juicing machine.
Built with aircraft-grade aluminum and plastic, the Juicero unit weighs 31.5 lbs., occupies 10 sq. in. of space, and creates up to 8,000 pounds of mechanical-based pressure. The user loads a proprietary, vacuum-sealed bag filled with finely chopped, raw, organic fresh fruits and vegetables into the machine and presses a button. The output is 8 oz. of juice. Aside from disposing of the bag, there is no cleanup required, according to the company.
Each bag is stamped with a QR code which, when used in conjunction with a mobile app, gives users information about the origins, nutritional benefits and freshness of the produce. The app will also enable them to schedule or modify deliveries of bags, which are shipped to customers on a subscription-based model.
How much does this all cost? $699 for the machine, and $4-10 for each pack, depending on variety. It’s an expensive proposition, particularly as cheaper and more convenient options exist in an ever-expanding market for bottled cold-pressed juice.
Nevertheless, Evans and Juicero investors see significant opportunity marketing to consumers who are seeking the freshest possible option for cold-pressed juice by using disruptive innovation to shake up the market for countertop juicers. They also view potential for placement in some fast-casual restaurant chains, including Le Pain Quotidien, which will carry Juicero in select locations.
In a wide-ranging interview with BevNET, Evans discussed the development of Juicero, which is currently only available to customers in California with machines scheduled to begin shipping this summer. Evans also shared details about the company’s investment group, the target demographic and sales projections for Juicero, as well as how it fits into the competitive landscape of cold-pressed juice.
We’ve condensed the interview into an edited question-and-answer format:
BevNET Managing Editor Ray Latif: How did your initial engineering and design concepts for a juicing machine evolve into Juicero?
Juicero Founder & CEO Doug Evans: There is a two-step process for cold-pressed juicing. You chop and wash and grind and open up the produce and then you press. The part that I was very familiar with was the fresh produce side, and the sanitation and food safety. What I wasn’t familiar with was how I was going to create the force (for pressing). So I went on a quest of learning mechanical engineering and the different mechanisms creating large amounts of force. We have a team, in broad numbers, of 12 Ph.D.s, 45 engineers, seven food scientists, in all disciplines from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, microbiology. My core sketch of where I started and where we ended up was very, very similar. In between, we had 12 iterations and different designs that we tested till we got to the final industrial design.
RL: Why was it important to create a juicing system that supplied the produce?
DE: At Organic Avenue, I was the largest independent buyer of organic produce in New York. I had direct relationships with farms, and I knew difference between buying produce at a supermarket, buying produce at a distributor or broker, versus buying produce directly from a farm. Knowing how perishable the ingredients were and how fresh I wanted it to be, I decided that I wanted to know which farms I was buying from then go direct. Freshness, transparency, traceability — all very important. Also creating a recipe that had no waste, because if you’re buying produce for juicing, you can’t buy a half a stalk of celery and a slice of lemon.
RL: Juicero has raised an enormous amount of money. Why was it necessary?
DE: Money is a relative statement, because how one uses capital can be very different. Having been through this before as an entrepreneur, I know things always cost more and take more time than even the most ambitious and perfect plans require. We have only deployed a fraction of that capital at this moment.
RL: Campbell Soup Co. is the only food and beverage company invested in Juicero. What was Campbell’s interest in the system?
DE: Their interest was the sheer invention and the team and our view of how to make fresh, ripe, raw, organic products available. [Campbell Fresh president] Jeff Dunn and [Campbell CEO and President] Denise Morrison saw the product and were literally blown away, like they had never seen anything like it. They wanted to be part of it, and we were in a stage where we were raising capital and we felt that they were truly innovators and wanted to disrupt their own business. When I said to Denise Morrison, “this is very disruptive,” she said, “my job is to disrupt myself, so I’m looking for disruptors.”
RL: Who will be Juicero customers?
DE: The target consumers are people who like juice and people that have expensive blenders, Vitamix, Blendtec, etc. I think home-juicing is something that has never really taken off on a regular basis. Our research, and we’ve done quantitative and qualitative research that says people who have home juicers use them once or twice a month, but people who have single-serve coffee dispensing machines use them once or twice a day. And we’re in the convenience culture, so there’s was a huge emphasis on making it convenient for people to something that was truly healthy for them.
RL: What are sales projections for Juicero?
DE: My feeling on projections is that whatever projections we make would be wrong. And if we hit our projections, it would be because we were lucky, not smart. So what I focused on was what we are going to do, what our approach would be and that was it. We did not make explicit projections because it is totally unknown. This is a new category that’s neither a juicer nor a juice.
RL: With a vast number of options for cold-pressed juice, including juice bars and bottled retail products, how will Juicero attempt to differentiate itself and what it offers to consumers?
DE: The convenience of buying a bottled juice cannot be matched. A bottle has great utility. Having been there and running 12 stores [with Organic Avenue], the cold-pressed juicing process today is not designed for on-demand. It’s designed for batches. You must do it in batches. The fundamental product that we are offering is unique. In my days at Organic Avenue, I had access to eight juice presses and the first thing I would do in the morning… was go and see if I could slip my cup into a press and capture the juice and the nectar as it was coming off the press. There was nothing like that afterwards. And that was the experience I wanted to create: literally getting that pressed juice on-demand.