Juicero, the manufacturer of a web-enabled countertop juicing device and fresh ingredients delivery company, has raised $70 million in Series B funding. The round was led by technological innovation investor Artis Ventures.
The deal follows a $4 million seed round in October 2013 and a $16.5 million Series A in April 2014, bringing the company’s total funding to over $100 million. This recent influx of capital will be used for a variety of applications, including building factories, expanding the operation, and boosting sales and marketing.
The company’s founder and CEO is Doug Evans, who spent nearly seven years working for Organic Avenue, which he says is the largest independent buyer of organic produce in New York.
“To have the freshest juice, you have to have the freshest produce,” Doug Evans, Juicero CEO and founder, told AgFunderNews. “Having been the largest independent buyer of organic produce in New York, I knew the difference between buying produce in a grocery versus from a distributor versus from a farm directly.”
This informed the startup’s sourcing strategy: it sources produce from roughly 14 organic farms in the state and then triple-washes, preps, chops, and packages the produce into pre-portioned juice packs. Juicero promises customers a “farm-to-glass” experience in 72 hours or less.
So what do consumers do when they receive their packs of pre-portioned produce? This is where the hi-tech juicer comes in.
An aircraft-grade aluminum and BPA-free plastic device, it’s roughly 10 inches by 16.5 inches and weighs 31.5 pounds. Behind its sleek exterior is a complex wifi-enabled computer system. Evans drew inspiration from some of the commercial and industrial cold presses he had seen, aiming to bring something scalable to consumers’ countertops.
“Similar to how Apple took the mainframe computer and created a personal computer, I wanted Juicero to take mainframe juice presses and create a personal juice press,” he said.
The 100% recyclable packaging itself is engineered to have the precise oxygen transfer rate required to accommodate living produce. It releases CO2 while also providing the produce with oxygen and preventing any leaks or other methods of contamination.
After the user loads a juice pack into the machine, it scans a QR code on the label. The web-enabled device detects whether the juice pack is still fresh enough and alerts the user if there’s a chance it has gone bad. The scan also provides the user with information regarding the ingredients in each pack, the farms that provided its contents, and the date it was packed. Users access this information through a mobile app, which also lets them schedule, modify, or cancel deliveries.
“We wanted to ensure that there was never going to be an incident where someone would consume something that wasn’t ideal for consumption,” Evans said. “The real thing is about creating the transparency for consumers through the supply chain.”
What’s the hot fuss over cold-pressed juice? According to Evans, the method taps into the old way of doing things when juices, olive oil, wine, and other items were created using a rack and cloth to apply pressure to produce. Other methods use heat or pasteurization. Although this extends the juice’s shelf life, it reduces the nutrient content.
Consumers seem to be clamoring at an increasing rate for health-focused packaged goods like juices. There are a variety of high-end home juicing machines available on the market, as well as a variety of companies that sell bottled cold-pressed juice to retail stores like Whole Foods. Juicero seems to set itself apart when it comes not only to convenience and ease-of-use but in the transparency it provides.
“There isn’t anything like this on the market in the fresh world. This is a real breakthrough invention,” said Evans. “Unlike other juicers on the market, there’s no setup, no clean up, no waste.” To cut down on waste at their facility, Juicero composts any produce remnants that don’t make it into the juice packs.
And when it comes to claims that juicing is not as healthy as many companies represent, Evans is unconvinced. While some sources tout the benefits of drinking fruit and vegetable juices, other sources say removing the pulp and fiber from produce strips away crucial benefits and provides a rush of sugar that stresses the body.
“It’s very easy to shoot holes in anything, but the fact is Americans are not getting enough services of fruits and vegetables. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend juice that contains 100% fruit and vegetable juice,” he explains. “If you’re eating a balanced diet, you’re getting fiber in infinite other things. The purpose of drinking juice is not to get fiber.”
At $699 for the machine and between $4 and $10 for each juice pack, some consumers may feel the device puts too much of a press on their wallets.
“For one dollar a day over a two year period, it’s an incredible investment for your health to get a product that uniquely presses produce on demand with no prep and no clean up,” argued Evans. “I would easily pay someone more than one dollar to make a juice for me in the convenience of my home.”
While the farm-to-glass model is part of the business’ appeal, it may create limitations down the road should Juicero look at expanding into markets located in regions scant on farmland. Transporting the fresh juice packs predominately from California to other regions isn’t impossible, and it may prove costly to the company’s margins or to consumers’ price points. According to Evans the company is limiting its launch to California so that it can perfect its model.
As far as other challenges, Evans sees smooth sailing on the horizon.
“There’s nothing really keeping me up at night. We have a really strong team, we’ve got technology, the farmers love us, and the consumer response has been off the hook,” he said. “I think what you can look for is Juicero being ubiquitous—schools, airports, universities, hospitals.”
What do you think? Would you pay $4 – $10 for a juice? Get in touch at LManning@AgFunder.com