Just What The Heck Is MonaVie, And Should I Sell It?

An anonymous reader asks,

I’ve been approached by a friend to join up with MonaVie acai juice—it’s a “superfood” juice that’s sold through “network marketing.” I actually do like the product, and this is a friend I trust, but my alarm bells are still going off. I don’t want to get sucked into a scam, obviously. There’s nothing about this company on your site, so I thought I’d drop you a line and see if you had any advice.

Here’s our advice: don’t do it! When you look at the business details and filter out the friend-of-a-friend stories, it’s not worth the hassle.

MonaVie—a concoction of acai and other fruit juices, and sold in wine bottles for $40 a pop—is the latest in a long line of mysterious and exotic cure-alls, and no, no you should not “sell” it. We use quotation marks because the majority of distributors are their own primary customers, according to Newsweek’s Tony Dokoupil. The juice is loaded with good things and is certainly not unhealthy for you. But before you decide to shell out $40 on a bottle, or help your friend reach his or her sales quota by becoming another member in the company’s multi-level-marketing (MLM) business model—funny, when you chart that model, it looks like a pyramid!—you should find out more about how the sales look from the top, and what’s actually been verified about its health benefits.

Dokoupil points out that those people reportedly making millions of dollars in sales commissions are members near the very top of the pyramid.

Most of the million-strong sales team is really just drinking the juice, according to MonaVie’s 2007 income disclosure statement, a federally required printout of their distributor earnings. More than 90 percent were considered “wholesale customers,” whose earnings are mostly discounts on sales to themselves. Fewer than 1 percent qualified for commissions and of those, only 10 percent made more than $100 a week. And the dropout rate, while not disclosed by MonaVie, is around 70 percent, according to a top recruiter.

So that’s the reality from a profit perspective. As far as health benefits go, most of the claims about its ability to cure cancer, eczema, general pain, anxiety, autism, and a case of the stupids, is gossip and hearsay. (In fact, it may cause a case of the stupids, we’re guessing.) Newsweek points out that because unsalaried MonaVie salespeople are out making the ridiculous health claims and not the company, MonaVie stays within FDA guidelines, and doesn’t have to worry about backing up such claims.

Wikipedia cites a few nutritional studies that place acai berries somewhere in the mid-to-high range on antioxidant protection. It’s definitely a great fruit, and if you can find an affordable source of acai berries, go for it.

But even if acai berries were filled with God’s own tears, it turns out that a $40 bottle of MonaVie isn’t 100% acai juice, and the company won’t disclose the ratio of acai to its other ingredients. In fact, their product page presents an amazingly content-free but fancy description that avoids any real details:

While the açai berry serves as the foundation for each of MonaVie’s vital formulas, with literally thousands of phytonutrients and antioxidants found in nature’s fresh fruits, MonaVie didn’t want to focus on just one at the expense of others. This led to MonaVie’s scientists and product development team selecting additional fruits whose synergistic union would reach far beyond what any single fruit could accomplish. These specially selected fruits have been exclusively combined to create MonaVie’s premier balanced blends.

In other words, “Just trust us!”

We think instead of lining the pockets of MonaVie’s savvy head promoters, you should just shop around for 100% pure acai products, which will be much cheaper. Or just keep eating a variety of cheaper fruits, buy a decent $12 bottle of red wine, and lay off the health food fads altogether.

“MonaVie Acai Juice: Cure-All or Marketing Scheme?” [Newsweek]

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