Introduction to MonaVie MLM Compensation Plan
If shameless sensationalism were my thing, I would frame this MonaVie review as the story of a disgraced super-fruit beauty queen, but the truth is that the flagship ingredient in MonaVie products, the lovely acai berry, she of dark purple hue, is doing just fine. Go to any supermarket or any health food smoothie stand, and you will see all kinds of foods and drinks that feature acai juice as an ingredient. Even the mixed berry flavor of Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt has acai as an ingredient, and its brand identity is about as far away from the acai berry’s native Amazonian rainforest as you can get. You could even say that the dark purple queen of the Amazon has unseated the voluptuous pomegranate as America’s sweetheart among super-fruits, despite the fact that both lovely ladies are prized more for their fabled nutritional value than for their sweetness. The acai berry has us wrapped so tightly around its pulchritudinous purple finger, in fact, that we keep on buying expensive products that contain acai even though it is lower in antioxidants than its rival the pomegranate and even than the sensuous super-fruit of the ancients, red wine. Not only that, but acai juice contains lower levels of antioxidants (its main selling point) than almost everything you drink, including such bargain basement beverages as tea and Concord grape juice. That means that you can get more antioxidants by stealing some sweet tea from your grandmother’s ladies’ luncheon or some dark purple grape juice from your baby cousin’s sippy cup than you can from acai juice, and without even bothering with the expensive lifestyle.
But the acai berry is about the only thing that makes it to the end of this MonaVie review with its reputation unscathed, so fasten your seatbelts. Here comes a multilevel marketing (MLM) story for the ages.
MonaVie: The Company and Its Products
I should start by saying that you know that you are dealing with something sleazier than the average MLM company when major media outlets start publishing stories about it. When I research most of my MLM reviews, I tend to find lots of overblown testimonials by distributors of the MLM, desperately trying to recruit people to their downline. I also find reviews, of varying levels of quality, on sites with a similar mission to this one, namely to review all the MLM business opportunities out there. A lot of MLM companies do not even have a Wikipedia article about them; only the ones with huge numbers of members and the ones that have been around a really long time do. (In fact, if you decide to write a Wikipedia article about an unsung MLM, and you cite Notebook Crazy, I will be content that I have made my mark on the world.) I knew when I was in form some fun when I clicked on the “References” section, and I found linked to articles about MonaVie published in such mainstream publications as Newsweek and The Salt Lake Tribune.
The story begins in Utah, where so many MLM stories begin; in fact, several versions of the story I read about the rise and fall of MonaVie indicate that the MLM industry makes up a substantial part of the economy of Utah. Except that it really takes off in Florida, which is the perfect environment for such nuisance species as the melaleuca, the nutria, and the MLM nutritional supplement. Dallin Larsen, who is originally from Idaho (the more MLM reviews I write, the more central a role the Gem State seems to play in the MLM industry), is a longtime veteran of MLM, having been a successful distributor for NuSkin and Usana. In 2001, while living in an outlying suburb of Orlando, Florida, Larsen took a high ranking job with an MLM company called dynamic essentials, which put him in charge of marketing the company’s products, especially a beverage called Royal Tongan Limu, which had some type of seaweed extract as its flagship ingredient. As is typical in the MLM industry, Dynamic Essentials distributors, and even the Dynamic Essentials website itself, claimed that Royal Tongan Limu, with its mighty seaweed extract, could cure everything from cancer to attention deficit disorder. (The idea that attention deficit disorder does not need to be cured is the province of TED talks, not of the MLM industry, but that is a story for a different day.) If you have seen enough MLM companies rise and fall, you know what is coming next. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Dynamic Essentials to stop making these unverified claims. That was the beginning of the end for Dynamic Essentials, and Larsen left the company in February of 2003. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, several months after Larsen’s departure from the company, the FDA “witnessed the voluntary destruction of 90,000 bottles of Royal Tongan Limu.” Was it a bonfire of the vanities, or just another day in the world of MLM?
No sooner had Royal Tongan Limu met its fate than Larsen went back to Utah to start another MLM business venture. In 2003, he and several partners founded Monarch Health Sciences, which dealt in some very ordinary nutritional supplements, especially those geared toward weight loss. The secret to the success of Monarch Health Sciences was not its products, but rather its talent for recruiting distributors who had reached high ranks in other MLM companies. It offered sums of up to $3 million to highly successful Amway and Tahitian Noni (now called Morinda) distributors to join Monarch Health Sciences, according to lawsuits filed by these companies.
In 2005, Monarch Health Sciences became known as MonaVie, so that is how the above story connects to my MonaVie review. The most eminent of MonaVie products was its dark purple acai juice blend, which was sold in elegant bottles that resembled wine bottles. MonaVie distributors, and even Oprah and Dr. Oz, touted its health benefits, due to its antioxidants. MonaVie products became the red wine of Middle America, stirring the placebo receptors in the brain to ecstasy.
Everything was going great for a while, but then the recession hit in 2008. Any reader of Notebook Crazy, or indeed any MLM review site that is the slightest bit thoughtful, will know that selling nutritional supplements through an MLM company is not a recession proof job. Hardly anyone felt the effects of this fact more strongly than the MonaVie distributors, who soon found themselves with basements full of a beverage that was about the same color as wine and about the same price, but far less effective at drowning your sorrows.
And then the research came. A study published by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) showed the acai to be mediocre in the antioxidant department. Meanwhile, an Australian study found that the all American apple had more antioxidants than almost any MLM super-fruit; it beat not only the acai berry, but everything from the goji berry to the lovely Miss Mangosteen herself. (Yes, I know that apples also grow in other places besides the U.S., but anyone who has ever seen an apple tree growing in the Midwest knows how much it feels at home here.)
And then the MonaVie lawsuits came. Amway sued MonaVie for offering large sums of money to lure Amway distributors to the MonaVie business opportunity. Tahitian Noni (now called Morinda) filed a similar suit, and writing that sentence makes me wish I had been there to see the comely acai berry and then humble cheese fruit throw down. Then, by 2012, Mona Vie started to sue its own members for trying to recruit MonaVie distributors to other MLM business opportunities. Somewhere in the midst of all the MonaVie lawsuits, the truth came out. Ralph Carson, the Chief Science Officer for MonaVie, testified that he did not even know how much acai was in MonaVie products, to say nothing of being able to prove the health benefits of these products. During the MonaVie lawsuit, a memo even surfaced in which Carson described MonaVie products as “expensive flavored water.” MonaVie went into foreclosure in 2015.
The MonaVie Compensation Plan
All the remains of the MonaVie compensation plan, and indeed the MonaVie website, is a “webpage not found” message. But what I have found are some articles on the MonaVie business opportunity published by mainstream news outlets, and these probably give a more realistic view of what MonaVie distributors used to earn than the MonaVie compensation plan would have given me. Most MLM compensation plans tend to be a bit pie in the sky (super-fruit in the sky?), full of promises about the money you can earn if you can find the right warm market with their placebo receptors in just the right places. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, only 14 percent of MonaVie members ever earned a bonus. (To be fair, that number includes both MonaVie distributors, and the hapless autoship customers who got badgered into signing up for a MonaVie membership in order to get MonaVie products at Liquor Barn prices instead of at Restaurant Week prices.) Only 1% of MonaVie distributors earned more than $50,000 per year in the MonaVie business opportunity. Once source I read said that one out of every 2,000 MonaVie distributors earned a million dollars or more in total through the company. These figures are similar to what people usually get through other MLM companies. The vast majority of people do not even break even through MonaVie or any other MLM business opportunity.
- It is really entertaining to read about MonaVie and other MLM companies through the lens of news outlets that usually write about things like the elections and the pros and cons of standardized testing in schools. Reading about the misadventures of MonaVie distributors was hilarious until I looked around my basement and saw all the unsold fungus coffee I still have lying around since my most recent MLM outing.
- Writing this MonaVie review made me remember how happy I feel when I see apple trees growing in the Midwest.
- If the MonaVie compensation plan ever did have binary structure, it’s gone now, so I guess we can be thankful for that.
- If MonaVie in particular, and the MLM industry in general, really played as big a role in Utah before the recession of 2008 as the sources I read while researching my MonaVie review said they did, that is really depressing. I’m not sure I even want to think about all the money that people have lost in the MonaVie business opportunity over the course of its history.
- To be honest, I guess I was biased against MonaVie from the beginning, at least as soon as I found out that MonaVie products are nutraceuticals. You only have to click on a few Notebook Crazy posts to find out that I have a grouchy spot in my heart reserved for nutraceuticals.
- To be honest, I’m getting a little tired of reading about the same states being the breeding ground for MLM company after MLM company. When are we going to get to read about an MLM company that was founded in Louisiana or Vermont?
- If you and your friend are searching for MLM reviews as part of a contest to find the dumbest one still in existence, like a MLM review version of Dinner for Schmucks, and all you found was my MonaVie review, I guess you lose. Better luck next time.
The MonaVie business opportunity is a thing of the past, with other nutraceutical MLM companies having taken its place, but the lovely acai berry, she of dark purple hue, lives on, her reputation untarnished by her middling levels of antioxidants. Somewhere in these United States is an extraordinarily seaweed-rich landfill, but the autoship charges on your credit card and the new nutritional supplements piling up in your basement suggest that we haven’t really learned from our mistakes. We never really do.
Listen, I didn’t mean to end this review on such a pessimistic note. I do still know of ways you can have a successful at-home business. Schedule a call with me to find out.