Like many, I initially got sticker shock when I saw the price of the Juicero, a pod-based connected cold-pressed juicing machine. At $700, the device is a bit spendy for all but the most dedicated juicers or those with lots of discretionary income.
Which is why I had lots of questions when I sat down with the company's CEO, Doug Evans, when he visited Seattle this spring to discuss the home juicer. A natural salesmen, he didn't blink at the question and insisted he'd easily find a market for the product. I suspected he could be right, particularly since there was likely a market among upper-income home juicers who are tired of the mess and work it requires to get to a single glass of juice. In many ways, home juicing is in the same primitive stage of expense and mess that the homebrew space has been in the last few decades prior to the arrival of new home brewing systems such as PicoBrew and Brewie.
Still, I still wasn't sure if the ramp would be fast enough for a company that needs to ramp fast. After all, when you raise $120 million or so to create a new market, you need to hit it out of the park your rookie season. But it was something Evans told me during this my meeting with him - and an off-the-cuff statement by chef Michael Voltaggio - that convinced me that Juicero may hit a home run with its connected juicer before they even get to the second inning.
That something Evans was talking about was the professional market. According to Evans, once they announced the Juicero, some of the first orders that came in were from companies who wanted to outfit their coffee and lunch areas with the $700 juicer.
"We had one corporation order 20 units, another ordered 31 and then added 19 more units to the order," said Evans.
And it wasn't just corporate lobbies and startup spaces where Juiceros could soon find homes, but in restaurants too. While Evans suggested restaurant spaces could be a natural market for the Juicero, that possibility didn't really hit home for me until I told chef Michael Voltaggio about the device.
"I want one," said the winner of Top Chef season 6.
The reason I was talking to Voltaggio was he was going to be a guest speaker at our Future:Kitchen event we held at Williams-Sonoma. Doug and the Juicero team were also going to be there at our event, so when I told Voltaggio about the product, he couldn't wait to try one out. He told me he's building a new restaurant and wants to serve cold-pressed juice, but said doing so in a restaurant space is hard due to the need for a juicer and the mess it creates.
All of which is true - an in-restaurant requires an investment of at least $13-$14 thousand for the juicer itself, which is big and takes a significant amount of space. And once you have your professional juicer, you still need to feed in all the fruits and vegetables to get the resulting juice. Big, messy, expensive.
Which is why Voltaggio - and I suspect other restaurant owners - might just be intrigued by the Juicero. A pod-based system with a small footprint that would allow a restaurant to add $15 glasses of juice to the menu is a nice addition for a fairly small investment.
I decided to email Doug and ask him about how the restaurant and corporate market demand was for the Juicero since we talked earlier this spring. He gave me this update:
- Juicero is launching in Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ), which will be offering Juicero fresh cold-pressed juice by the glass in 8 Southern California locations
- Juicero was a prominent part of the launch of first ever 365 by Whole Foods in Silverlake, CA, who is selling Juicero cold-pressed juice by the glass in their cafe
- Juicero working with multiple corporate clients who want Juicero in their break rooms and kitchens, giving their employees convenient, healthy cold-press juice
Makes sense. Whole Foods is in that premium sweet spot Juicero is carving out, and a Le Pain also makes sense in trend and health conscious LA.
Long-term, I suspect the Juicero will see its biggest volume in the home market, particularly if they can get the juicer to that magic $300 or below price point. But to get there, the company needs to reach scale, and the corporate and restaurant market could be one of the ways they get there.