A botched technology squeeze play: The story of Juicero

Not that long ago, Bloomberg reported on Juicero and the surprising revelation that the $400 juicing machine was, strictly speaking, unnecessary and produced results not much better than hand-squeezing the juice packs. From the article:

Juicero declined to comment. A person close to the company said Juicero is aware the packs can be squeezed by hand but that most people would prefer to use the machine because the process is more consistent and less messy. The device also reads a QR code printed on the back of each produce pack and checks the source against an online database to ensure the contents haven’t expired or been recalled, the person said. The expiration date is also printed on the pack.

So basically, the machine exists for sometimes giving you juice, and sometimes saying “Sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”. Given the device costs $400, and the packs for it are priced with a similar needless markup (not to be confused with that needless markup), I really don’t see the advantage.

For some strange reason, I am reminded of the creativity that slot machine manufacturers used to get around laws, by disguising the slot machine as a vending machine for mints. Surprisingly, back in the era during which this was needed, it worked, though from what I remember reading the judges did wonder why so much machinery was needed for the simple task of vending mints. Indeed, I don’t see the issue with scanning QR codes by hand (with my phone, or perhaps with my laptop’s webcam), and looking up the result for a recall (the expiration dates are printed in human-readable form). Or, for that matter, I could pick my own produce and make juice using an old-fashioned juicer.

But then Juicero wouldn’t make any money, and we can’t have that, now can we?

I like technology. But there is a difference between using technology to solve problems, and making a technological solution in search of a problem. The Juicero machine takes its place right next to the failed DIVX discs and players as an example of the latter.