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In 2013, after running the New York-based juice company Organic Avenue for 11 years with his founding partner Denise Mari, Evans was fired from his CEO position following the sale of the company to investment firm Weld North. (Organic Avenue eventually met a similarly tragic fate: after it was sold to investment firm Vested Capital Partners in June of 2015 in a cashless deal, the brand shuttered in October).
But instead of leaving the juice industry completely, Evans went to Silicon Valley to lick his wounds. He plotted a comeback, and the results are astounding: His new startup, Juicero, launches today, with a state-of-the-art juicer that produces cold-pressed juice from vacuum-sealed pouches, filled with fresh produce.
The juicer, which is similar to a Keurig coffee maker, sells for $699 on the Juicero site and does not require any cleaning. The juice pouches will sell for $4-10 and will be available in five different flavors; they even feature a QR code that reveals which farm the produce comes from. The pouches are simply popped into the juicer and then are pulled out after making a cup of fresh juice, without causing any mess — a huge plus for anyone who owns a juicer and hates to clean its countless parts. The process is almost too good to be true, but at a press preview in New York City a few weeks ago, Evans showed off his gadget to a small group of reporters. I half-expected the juice to taste like space food but the green juice Evan's new machine produced did, indeed, taste fresh and delicious. He boasted the juice was even better than bottled, cold-pressed juice already on the market.
"I want to close the produce gap; I want people to have more servings of fruits and vegetables," Evans told me in a private interview after the press preview. "This will help people have more access to it. I see this technology enabling restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, hospitals to be able to raise their standards. Today you can go into a fine dining restaurant and at best get an Ocean Spray cranberry juice or a Dole Pineapple juice. So by being able to offer this level of juice into their spaces, more people can be healthier."
"I want to close the produce gap; I want people to have more servings of fruits and vegetables."
Evans has been quietly working on Juicero for nearly two years. It's been dubbed a "secret Silicon Valley startup," and even though it's been poaching talent from Google and Apple — Juicero CMO Deena Bahri worked at Birchbox for four years — details of the operations have been kept largely under wraps. (Secrecy was a pressing issue at the press preview: In addition to handing out cards explicitly stating today's embargo date, no photos, videos, or recordings were allowed, and anything taken had to be instantly deleted). Juicero has raised some $100 million over the last few years in three rounds of funding from eight different investors, including Campbell's Soup and Google Ventures, and Evans said he believes the venture will be "very profitable."
Evans is earnest yet soft-spoken — and humble, a pleasantly surprising attribute coming from the sea of startup CEOs spilling out of Silicon Valley. While he "doesn't like to name drop," Evans says he has many friends at Apple and considers Steve Jobs one of his most important inspirations; his new juicer is sleek and white, so it's easy to see the resemblance to Apple products.
At this point in the game, it seems there's almost no room for any more juice brands. Companies are folding left and right, especially in Los Angeles, and the one-time delicacy that was cold-pressed juice can be found in stores all over New York City, not just wellness boutiques. Brands like Juice Press and Sujero are rapidly expanding, and even Pepsi has reportedly been privately testing out a new cold-pressed juice line. Evans said he knows the market is saturated, which is why he didn't "even fathom starting a bottle juice company or a juice bar."
"Been there, done that!" he said. "When [Organic Avenue] started back in 2002, it was innovative. Now, [juice is] ubiquitous. To me, this is raising the standard. This is the core."
What anyone in the juice industry will lament is the amount of waste that comes with running such a business, and the subsequent financial losses that follow. In June, LuliTonix founder Lianna Sugarman called cold-pressed juice "temperature-sensitive products that are excited to go bad. They want to die!" It's for this reason many juice brands opt to HPP their products, using high pressure processing to prolong a juice's shelf life by inactivating some bacteria. But the practice is controversial, with industry veterans like Juice Press founder Marcus Antebi comparing the option to "going to Zales for a diamond versus going to Tiffany's or Cartier: It makes the product inferior."
With Juicero's model, though, Evans said his company would bypass these issues. Juicero operates on a subscription model through its website, so the company will be ordering fresh produce for its pouches based on sales. As of today, subscriptions are only available in California, through FedEx, Uber, or by pickup locations, but Evans said he predicts Juicero will eventually turn into an international company. Juicero subscriptions are expected to hit New York by the end of this year. Juicero's only other competition is LivBlends, which launched a similar juicer in 2014. But Juicero's has the reputation of Organic Avenue in its early days on its side, as well as money from Silicon Valley (Business Insider last yearreported that Evans had been spotted chatting with folks like Bill Gates and Apple's Jony Ive) and so it likely garner better name recognition than previous competitors.
"There is no solution like this in the market. And the business model is scalable, defensible, and the product is delicious. I think it'll be a very meaningful business."
Talking about his experience at Organic Avenue, which experts believe folded because it expanded too quickly, Evans said the most important lesson he's learned is to keep things simple.
He explained that Juicero had been carefully designed: the subscriptions, the limited amount of SKU, the direct-from-farm sourcing and automated equipment. "There is no solution like this in the market," Evans said, "And the business model is scalable, defensible, and the product is delicious. I think it'll be a very meaningful business."
While the Juicero juicer has a pretty steep price, Evans points out that juicing connoisseurs will shell out an average $500 for a Vitamix, and plenty of avid juice fans, who pay up to $15 for a bottle of juice, could save money investing in a Juicero machine and subscription. Time will tell if consumers will actually take to the Juicero model, but if the startup does expand to other cities outside of California, and keep up with its deliveries, it may very well completely shake up the juice category.