The MonaVie Acai Berry Super Fruit Juice - Mona Vie Scam?
Published 12/30/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
Review of MonaVie and The Acai Berry Fruit Juice Company's Health and Marketing Claims
MonaVie. Mona Vie. The word actually sounds like a spin off of some french phrase (mon ami), but when I hear the name, two things immediately come to mind - acai berry juice and multi level marketing pyramid scheme. The MLM business scheme or pyramid marketing concept usually elicits a series of red alert alarm bells in my brain's BS scam detector, however, I'm willing to take a closer look at MonaVie before rendering my personal critique and verdict. After having tried out and actually tasted the MonaVie acai berry fruit drink, I have to admit, it's a rather sweet and tasty beverage - sort of a crisp combination of grape juice, blue berries, black berries, and a hint of dark chocolate. There's not much negative commentary I can sling at the MonaVie product in terms of taste alone, but the outrageously expensive price tag and the rather suspicious marketing approach of the company leave much to be desired.
As an ordinary American consumer and a casual observer, I'm not sure what to make of this whole MonaVie acai berry fruit juice craze that seems to be sweeping the health and fitness world. The product's been featured on the Food Network and on daytime talk shows for women like the Rachel Ray show, and eagerly touted by popular television hosts like Oprah Winfrey as the ultimate nectar of the gods. At least several medical commentators have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show recently to promote the acai berry as an invaluable source of super food nutrients and as a magical method to promote youth and bodily rejuvenation. While most of the on-air health commentators were on the Oprah show to promote their individual books, even Oprah herself seemed to jump on the acai berry bandwagon, endorsing the nutritional claims of the tiny purple berry in her own boisterous way.
And it's not just celebrity women either (who in my sexist opinion tend to be very ultra health conscious). Even celebrity guys seem to be getting in on the acai super fruit craze as well. There are numerous photos floating around on the internet of well known celebrities (both male and female) photographed with���� their MonaVie acai juice bottles. I've seen hip hop stars and motor sport athletes on MTV's Cribs show opening up their refrigerator doors for the camera to proudly display their prized rows of ultra-expensive MonaVie branded acai juice bottles. To top it off, when the Boston Red Sox won the Major League Baseball World Series in 2007, you even had several pitchers and players publicly thanking the Mona Vie company and attributing their athletic success to the seemingly magical healing powers of the MonaVie acai berry drink. When professional athletes who have just won the most competitive pinnacle award of their profession celebrate their triumph by giving a ringing endorsement of a particular enhancement product, citing the competitive advantages it allegedly provided their bodies through the grueling eight month long baseball season, I definitely take notice. However at the same time, my curiosity is greatly tempered with a strong dose of skepticism and suspicion at the celebrity's personal motivations for such a resounding product recommendation - and I find myself wondering if the celebrity was partly motivated by financial considerations.
Without a doubt, MonaVie is a popular and highly promoted superfruit juice product, frequently mentioned in popular entertainment and athletic circles among the rich and trendy. It also has a strong growing presence online and on TV, but then again, so do many of the numerous get rich quick schemes and snake oil scams out there, featuring all types of facial cleaning products and useless weight loss shakes and pills. All such popular products have their own legion of compensated celebrities ready to help make the sales pitch and enthusiastically promote the product to the audience. Just because a product is heavily marketed and seems popular does not make it legit. Thus I wanted to take a more objective look into the MonaVie product itself, its health claims, and its marketing approach to decipher for myself the legitimacy of the brand. My primary goal is to answer these series of questions - Is MonaVie a scam? Does MonaVie acai juice berry drinks actually provide the health benefits re-soundly touted by its army of rabid distributors? And finally, is MonaVie a product I would actually purchase and consume for myself as an average, everyday mildly health conscious consumer?
The MonaVie Acai Berry Juice Product
MonaVie is a fruit juice drink made up of a blend of 19 different fruits. In a nut shell, it's like Odwalla or Naked branded smoothie drinks - except the drink is marketed as an acai berry product and it comes in a fancy looking wine bottle to give it allure. While the company refuses to disclose the actual numbers detailing individual juice makeup, it eagerly markets the fruit juice cocktail as some type of specially formulated super fruit juice, citing its composition of acai berries for its supposed magical ability to cure all sorts of physical and mental ailments. While the company does not expressly state that the MonaVie acai berry juice drink is capable of amazing healing properties, that is the marketing direction the company seems to strongly hint at. Obviously due to legality reasons, MonaVie can't officially claim its juice drink to be a health elixir, but it sure seems like it unofficially wants to based on the promotional dance it's constantly engaging in.
Inside of its fruit juice drinks, MonaVie lists as one of its primary ingredients - the acai berry (pronounced ah-sai-ee) - a small purple black fruit about an inch in size and produced from the acai palm tree in the Amazon of Brazil. Through its network of distributors, the MonaVie company promotes the message that its unique acai berry juice blend contains many of the antioxidant related health benefits associated with the acai berry and other special fruits. Supposedly, these super fruits are packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidant compounds that uniquely protect the body's cells from damage and disease, boost the immune system, and slow down the otherwise inevitable process of aging. However, much of the alleged health benefits of MonaVie and the extent of the nutritional value of acai have been called into constant debate and frequently questioned by naysayers that cast suspicion at what exactly is contained in MonaVie and the extent of its alleged nutritional value if any. Certainly, the company's reluctance to share detailed information about the specific acai berry concentration found in its bottles and its mysterious refusal to reveal detailed proportional make up of how the���� fruit juices in the MonaVie blend are made up continue to fuel discussions abut the health claims made by the product's distributors.
Monavie Acai Is Sold Exclusively Via A Questionable Multi Level Direct Sales Approach (AKA Pyramid Scheme)
Mona Vie acai juice drinks are not available in traditional supermarket chains or grocery stores like Safeway, Kroger, or Wegmans, and they're not even available via specialty health minded retailers like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. You definitely won't find the company's products at discounters like Walmart or Costco - no, the MonaVie company shuns the traditional sales outlets in favor of a more personalized and almost cult like marketing approach.
MonaVie was launched in January 2005 by a long time direct sales marketing veteran and since then, the company has relied exclusively on a multi level marketing strategy to promote and sell its expensive juice drinks. For all intents and purposes, the company's more of a powerful marketing machine than a health food provider. Certainly there may be substantially better fruit juice products out there at much cheaper prices, but frankly, and somewhat commendably, MonaVie does a pretty powerful job of hyping and cleverly convincing health fanatics that they absolutely must drink this product everyday to live their lives to the fullest.
By tapping into a sales stream that takes advantage of trusted personal relationships to generate sales, the company has become wildly successful - at least on the sales side. Those unfamiliar with multi level marketing (MLM) may be more familiar with its common nickname - the pyramid scheme. A MLM or pyramid scheme relies on a direct sales technique based on a relationship referral business model whereby trusted people are the engine components that drive the commission based sales. Whenever a sale is made, a lofty commission is paid out, not only to you (the person who made the sale), but also to the person who referred you into the marketing program as well as to the person who referred your direct referrer - hence the pyramid nature of the arrangement. Because these multi level marketing programs are so potentially lucrative for those at the top of the pyramid (the upline), the system strongly encourages and incentivizes participants to zealously promote the product and heavily recruit new entrants into the program (the downline) to further earn sales and commissions for those on the up line.
Now, the one thing that must be made clear is that not all multi level marketing programs or pyramid schemes are inherently evil or illegal. Not all pyramid schemes are blatant scams or disreputable shell games the same way that Ponzi Schemes are. In fact, there are many otherwise thinly legitimate multi level marketing programs out there such as Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Herbalife, Tupperware, and all sorts of online affiliate programs. However, many of these MLM based companies suffer from the same stigma and questionable scrutiny that MonaVie faces as well. While not outright frauds or scams like the way Nigerian 419 scams are for example, the same scammy concerns arise because many of these MLM programs really only benefit those at the top of the marketing pyramid and often encourage overzealous sales techniques that frequently lead to almost predatory recruiting tactics and pitches. Oftentimes as well, many of these MLM programs demand contractually obligated sales quotas that members must satisfy every month or face having to purchase the products themselves to meet the sales quota requirement. In the case of MonaVie's contractually obligated arrangement for wannabe new distributors into the program, new entrants are obligated to buy at least 4 bottles a month of the pricey acai berry juice. They don't come cheap and failure to sell enough bottles every month will require that the distributor contractually purchase the required quota for personal use.
As noted by an investigative news article from Newsweek, according to income disclosures, most of the million strong sales team of MonaVie appear to be really just drinking the juice themselves rather than selling them as originally intended. More than 90% of supposed distributors of MonaVie are actually considered wholesale customers, whose earnings were mostly discounts on sales to themselves. Remarkably according to the article, fewer than 1% of the MonaVie marketing pyramid's sales people qualified for commissions and of those, only 10% made more than $100 a week. The Newsweek article even goes on to state that according to a top MonaVie recruiter, while obviously not disclosed by the company, the MonaVie multi level marketing program's drop out rate's around 70%. It's certainly a fascinating tidbit to keep in mind as you ponder the question of whether MonaVie's a scam. While I personally don't think MonaVie is a scam as they do offer an otherwise legitimate fruit juice product, the acai juice company sure has rather unsavory fringe elements to it.
In regards to the secret world of direct sales and pyramid marketing, I had my first negative exposure to MLM programs when I was recruited by a company called Vector Marketing to sell Cutco branded knives back when I was just an 18 year old high school student. For some odd reason, many fellow high school students such as myself were targeted with elaborate marketing sales pitches by Vector Marketing recruiters to become trained in the art of tapping personal relationships to sell ridiculously and insanely overpriced Cutco steak knives to our friends and family members. Obviously, our recruiters were eager to train us into becoming their commission earning downline so that they could profit from our sales as our upline referrals. While the Cutco knives we lugged around and sold were of obvious high quality, they were no where even close to being worth the exorbitant price demanded of each individual cutlery. Quality is one thing, but they were and to this very day, are still vastly overpriced. While I was able to tap into my personal relationships and beg a few neighbors to shell out hundreds of dollars for a few knives out of pity, I remember always feeling extremely scammy and sleazy during my rehearsed sales pitches to supposed loved ones. As a mere 18 year old at the time, I wasn't too fond of���� having to take advantage of my close relationships for financial gain. There was nothing illegal or deliberately evil about the whole sales system, but the whole multi level marketing approach simply felt shady and rather manipulative to me.
Mova Vie Is Extremely Expensive and Overpriced Despite Its Alleged Acai Berry Health Properties
The MonaVie acai berry juice product is not cheap. In fact it's downright expensive - ridiculously overpriced at astronomically rip off levels if you ask me. A single MonaVie juice bottle will cost you $30-$40 per bottle, for a little more than 25 fluid ounces of the fruit berry mixture. According to the promotional material, to fully appreciate the nutritional benefits of acai berry juicing, you're supposed to drink at least 2 fluid ounces of the purple stuff in the morning, and another 1 ounce at night. At the rate suggested by the MonaVie company, a single bottle will last you about a week. At $30-40 a bottle, that comes out to $120-$160 a month, and $1,440-$1,920 a year. Unless you are swimming in money and flush with dollars like the professional athletes or financially well off���� like celebrities Oprah Winfrey or Rachel Ray, chances are, you're going to find regular consumption of this product to be well beyond your financial means. The lucrative price of each expensive bottle of Mona Vie can probably be traced back to the high cost of commission maintenance that must be paid out to the entire pyramid marketing chain upon each sale.
Because of the multi level marketing nature and aggressive direct sales promotional tactics of MonaVie distributors, a wide array of ridiculous health and nutritional claims seem to have blanketed the internet. Sometimes it's a little difficult figuring out which writer is trustworthy and which one is blatantly a sales guy. I have personal gut-feeling suspicions that sizable portions of these favorable web-based health comments and supposed online testimonials were made by MonaVie distributors and financially interested sales promoters trying to hype up the appeal of their pricey cash cow via fake product reviews. A quick browse of the internet quickly reveals all sorts of outlandish testimonies and anecdotal stories by random people - claims of how MonaVie acai juice drinking cured their heart disease, healed their arthritis, alleviated stress and depression, cured their acne, reversed their aging, repaired joint damage, got rid of joint and back pain, cured their cancer, treated their diabetes, made them more energetic, and even improved their sex life. The craziest claim I've seen was some gentlemen who claimed that his steady diet of Mona Vie acai berry juice made his special male anatomy organ larger and more virile. I've even read a few ridiculous claims by anonymous female commentators on various Mona Vie related blog posts touting how acai berry juicing grew their chests and helped make their breasts larger. The myriad of outlandish and totally unsubstantiated claims are quite abundantly available online - an unfortunate side effect that distorts the truth, whenever there is a lot of sales money to be had.
Now it's one thing for a product to be expensive and it's a whole different matter altogether if the product doesn't actually do what it says it is supposed to do. The literature and research on the amazing health benefits of drinking MonaVie and the supposed God-like healing properties of acai berry juice are still not entirely definitive. While there is little doubt that berries and fruits such as acai, blue berries, blackberries, and pomegranates common loads of nutritional vitamins and powerful compounds such as cell repairing antioxidants, the research is not yet entirely supportive that these are indeed super fruits that can cure all and heal all. There is scientific evidence that the acai fruit and other dark berries are uniquely high in Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC), a rating system that evaluates a food product's ability to fight harmful free radicals in the body, but that doesn't mean that a single fruit can potentially replace all other alternative sources of vital nutrients.
To be fair, the MonaVie company doesn't actually go out of its way to blatantly promote the MonaVie product as a magical berry elixir anymore. MonaVie does not actually make the health and nutritional claims itself. Due to stricter federal scrutiny of Mona Vie's official claims, the company has drastically cut back on its previous assertions of health benefits and healing properties. The company is now content with marketing the MonaVie drink as merely a high end fruit juice product, letting its legion of cult like Mona Vie acai berry drinkers and promoters hype the unbelievable health benefit innuendos on their own. After all, the motto of the MonaVie company is - "Drink It, Feel It, Share It" - which sounds more like a sales focused marketing directive of sorts to me.
Acai Berries Do Contain Lots Of Nutrients - They Just Don't Have Super Healing Powers As Suggested By Some Independent MonaVie Distributors
As a mild defense for the key heralded component of MonaVie's juice product - the acai berry does indeed contain abundant nutritional value. There is quite a bit of research touting the health benefits of acai berry as a good source of fiber, minerals, vitamins, polyphenols, and antioxidants for healthy bodily performance. The expensive acai fruit does indeed contain a wealth of nutritional benefits compressed into each little purple berry, but then again, much of the same health benefits can easily be found in large concentrations in other more common and cheaper fruits such as bananas, blue berries, and apples as well.
Despite my admitted fondness for the taste of acai, I'm extremely wary of buying into the whole MonaVie acai juice product because I simply do not know how much of acai can be found in each bottle. Because MonaVie refuses to disclose the actual composition of its juice drinks, we do not know for certain the exact breakdown of its juice cocktail and the exact amount of expensive acai berry concentrate in the blend. It's very important to keep in mind that the MonaVie juice mixture doesn't contain acai berries exclusively. It's comprised of an admitted blend of 19 fruits - including many common and cheap fruits like bananas and apples, easily found in your neighborhood grocery store. If you really buy into the claimed health benefits of juicing and nutritional potency of acai berries, there are much easier and cheaper ways to get your purple berry fix. Most grocery stores sell acai berry juice variations and even certain online stores sell similar acai berry laden juice drinks, acai powders, and acai capsules for much, much less.
The fact of the matter is that people are always looking for the easy way out and frequently are all too eager for a magic potion that will make take away the need to put in effort. There is plenty of research touting the overwhelming health benefits of a low fat, low sugar diet comprised of lots of fish and whole grain foods. There is also overwhelming evidence that smoking and excessive alcohol drinking wrecks havoc on physical and mental health, and that daily consistent exercise is absolutely essential to healthy living. Yet, we as humans seem to ignore those simple practices and remain perpetually enamored with the possibility that there are super fruits out there that can serve as magic silver bullets to our health problems and ailments. The reality is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all super fruit. Proper health and nutrition requires a good moderated balance of fruits, vegetables, and proper exercise - not the services of a single food product - especially not one that is so expensively priced.
How To Buy MonaVie Online And Test Out Acai Berry Juices For Yourself (Remember, It's Not Cheap and Its Health Claims Are Not Fully Substantiated Yet)
Recently, I purchased a few bottles of MonaVie online simply to test out and review the juice product for myself since I didn't know how else to try it out for free. While I have no intention of actually signing up as a distributor or getting myself locked into some multi level marketing contract, I think it's perfectly understandable if there are people out there who remain curious about the fruit juice blend. It's admittedly rather tasty, albeit extremely expensive and somewhat overrated. Personally, I don't buy the magical juice berry claims of the MonaVie supporters and chose to consume the drink on a one time limited basis as I would any new drink. If you really want to start juicing, buy a fruit juicer for yourself or buy pre-made fruit smoothies from the grocery store. Many of these pre-made blends contain acai berry and they're a much cheaper way to get exposed to the nutritional value of acai should you so choose to partake. If you really insist on joining the MonaVie acai berry craze, there are plenty of equally good generic acai berry brands out there as well - in various just-add-water powder products and pills.
In the event you are determined to test out MonaVie acai berry drinks or similar acai berry products based on curiosity, here are a few ways to buy them online. Remember, it's not an endorsement, and I'm just pointing the way for you if you insist:
- MonaVie Active Health Juice With Acai (Amazon) - 1 Bottle of the dark purple stuff.
- MonaVie Active Juice Bottles With Acai (Amazon) - 4 bottles - A way to buy MonaVie online without having to agree to some recurring sales contract.
- MonaVie Juice Bottles With Acai (eBay) - Cheapest method to buy MonaVie online without commiting to a distributorship agreement, but requires eBay auction bidding.
- Natrol - Acai Berries 1000mg Per Serving 60 Capsules (Amazon) - 60 capsules
- Organic Acai Fruit Capsules with Camu Camu (Amazon) - 60 capsules - The Brazilian acai berry in pill form.
- 100% Pure Acai Fruit Powder with Camu Camu (Amazon) - 90 grams - Just add water to make an acai powder juice drink.