In 1992, the Los Angeles Times noticed a trend in its infancy. Instead of eating their fruits and vegetables, people were beginning to mix them up and drink them. "No longer an activity limited to health nuts and aging hippies, juicing is a full-blown trend. 'Juice' is even a reflexive verb, as in, 'Do you juice?'" the paper wrote.
Now almost 25 years later, the piece seems all the more prescient. Juicing, then largely a West Coast hobby, has spread like a nutrition-packed weed, making its way into cities across the United States, and culminating in one of Silicon Valley's most over-the-top investments.
The bizarre venture, a juice machine called Juicero, was the subject of a long New York Times article published Thursday, which tried to make sense of its appeal (it has raised $120 million dollars so far). But the more you think about it, the less sense it seems to make. Especially when you think about how absurdly expensive not only owning one but also actually using one will be.
The machine itself costs a cool $700, which is pocket change for Gwyneth Paltrow, who reportedly tried and approved of the thing (but also drinks $200 juices every morning), but a hefty price for just about anyone else. In order to use it, however, you also need to buy little packets -- you can't just throw any old apples or oranges in there. Each packet contains some chopped-up fruits and veggies that, when squeezed by the machine, produce an 8-ounce glass of cold-pressed juice.
Very few new-age juices, which blend vegetables and fruits of all colors and often taste like they could do without one or several of them, are cheap, but these packets take expensive juicing to a whole other level.
The packets currently available on Juicero’s website cost between $5 and $7 a pop, which at 8 ounces of juice each works out to a unit price between 63 and 88 cents per ounce. That got us wondering: How does that stack up against other juices you might buy in, say, a grocery store?
We took a field trip to a Giant in suburban Maryland and recorded the prices of a bunch of juice products, from low-end to high. The big finding is that even in the super-duper ultra-high-end premium juice section we couldn’t find anything approaching the price of a typical Juicero packet. Not even close, in fact.
The closest were Bolthouse Farms’ “1915” line of cold-pressed juices and Suja’s organic juices, which came in at 33 cents per ounce, or roughly half the cost of Juicero’s offerings. And regular juices — the kind families buy for lunchboxes and whatnot — are cheaper by a factor of 10 or more.
For instance, your typical gallon of Mott’s Apple Juice weighs in at a hair under 4 cents per ounce; Juicero’s Sweet Green juice costs about 22 times more. But is the Juicero really 22 times more healthy, or more tasty, than the Mott’s?
Of course, for the market Juicero is targeting, these questions are beside the point. You don’t buy a $700 juicer that requires WiFi to make $7 juice because you’re interested in feeding your family affordably. You do it, rather, so you can tell yourself and your friends that you’re the type of person who buys a $700 juicer that requires WiFi to make $7 juice — that you care enough about the environment and your body and sustainability and industrial design to buy the juice that is absolutely top-of-the-line when it comes to all of those things.