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Innovation By Design

The Controversial Keurig For Juice Was Designed By Yves Béhar

Juicero, which turns veggie packets into cold-pressed juice, has serious industrial design cred. Will consumers go bananas for it?

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Fuseproject, the studio of industrial design star Yves Béhar, has designed the controversial kitchen appliance that, for $700, squeezes cold-pressed juice—from a packet.

Cold-press juicing is a high-pressure method for extracting juice from pulp, which zealots claim protects more nutrients than grinding. But it's hard to do at home. It can take as much peeling and dicing as any meal, and you go through a lot of veggies and fruits to fill a single glass.

With Juicero, you juice packets of veggies. These are premixed, pre-chopped bags that, when placed into the machine, squeeze out eight ounces of juice into a glass in about two minutes.

The startup behind Juicero—also called Juicero—has attracted skepticism since opening for business in March. Founded by Doug Evans, former CEO and cofounder of the now-defunct juice company Organic Avenue, the Juicero team has raised $120 million from investors ranging from Google Ventures to Campbell’s Soup—raising eyebrows among critics who call it a Keurig for juice and a silly niche product that represents Silicon Valley's warped worldview.

Whatever the verdict, it stands to reason that some people will be willing to pay top dollar—even more than they might spend on comparable juice at a store, according to a Washington Post analysis—for the convenience and cachet of a sleekly designed cold-pressed juice machine in their kitchen.

For Béhar, the machine was an exercise in mechanical engineering. Put your weight into the best hand-pressed juicers on the market, and they use the physics of levers and pistons to exert up to 2,000 pounds of force to squeeze the nectar from the pulp. Juicero manages four times that amount of pressure, Béhar says, without the strange tubes and corkscrew grinders you’d see in most countertop juicers that strive to duplicate cold-press slow extraction methods.

That's because the Juicero is built like a mini trash compactor. A motor drives an internal system of gears that can amplify force, and the front door of the machine itself works as the business end of the press.

"That’s translated in the industrial design with the thick aluminum door. That door you open and close is a very thick, machined door. When it closes, essentially, the gearing system pushes against it," says Béhar. "That’s why you have the significant hinges there and this relatively thick and relatively robust door."

The bag is hung inside the machine. That aluminum door automatically locks as it closes. A camera scans the bag's QR code to ensure it hasn’t expired or been packed by a third party. And the gears drive the back wall toward the door, smashing the pack along the way. Naturally, the pack has to hang from something and stay in proper alignment during the pressing, but anything holding it steady would have to survive repeated four-ton smashing. For this task, the Juicero uses silicone parts that can be squeezed again and again without flattening.

Even though the machine is built to last, you'll need to buy, and then dispose of, another component whenever you want a glass of juice—the packet filled with pre-chopped and pre-portioned veggies. Juicero says the packs are recyclable, and the contents are compostable. And the company argues that making vegetables easy to juice could cut back on food waste. No more fruits and vegetables rotting away in the back of our fridge because we're too lazy to prepare them.

"I’d never package whole fruit for example. It doesn't make any sense. I’ve railed many times against bananas and apples that are packaged at the airport," Béhar says (though, it should be noted, there are green arguments to be made for shrink-wrapping produce). "In this particular case, the reality of having to peel and cut and use certain amounts of vegetables . . . if you’ve ever done it yourself, you'll realize the amount of waste you create and the amount of unused vegetable and fruit. Being able to just package the right amount, and being able to serve that in a convenient way, in an efficient plant and environment, is to me, the balance that seems to be the right strategy."

Whether it is indeed the right strategy remains to be seen. Juice is a $2.3 billion industry—cold-pressed juice, in particular, has an estimated value of $100 million—but as the New York Times reports, juice sales and sales of home juicers are on the decline. Juicero plans to sell its juicers commercially—Le Pain Quotidien has signed on—and it may eventually release an affordable model to appeal to people who don't already have an expensive juice habit. As for whether the company's team can actually turn a pricey food masher into a cult object: If they did, it wouldn't be the first time.

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