With former Denver Broncos like John Elway and Brian Griese chugging down Bazi like it were the almighty sweat of Zeus, the liquid nutritional supplement by local company XELR8 is building a strong following here in Colorado. But unless you've been personally hit up by one of the company's 6,400-or-so independent distributors, you've likely never heard of Bazi or its supposed health-and-wealth-building powers discussed in this week's Westword cover story.
Actually, Bazi is just one of several high-priced antioxidant juice drinks being pushed to the masses via a multi-level marketing model, in which normal folks earn commissions by selling products to their family and peers -- and by recruiting others into the ever-growing sales network. How big? Companies like MonaVie and Xango both report having over a million independent distributors worldwide, translating to over $1 billion in annual sales. Other juice products include Noni, Goji, Vivix, Kyani, Vemma,Thai-Go and Zrii; each one focuses on a specific exotic fruit or berry that it claims possess astounding health-enhancement qualities.
We rounded up some bottles of the top juice supplements sold through multi-level marketing schemes, as well as a few copycats that have begun to pop up at regular retail stores at a much cheaper price. Let the chugging begin:
Name: XANGO Size: 25 ounces Focus fruit: mangosteen Single bottle cost: $37.50 Price per shot: $1.50 Obtained from: Jody Balaun in Golden
Xango's big fruit is the mangosteen from Indonesia, which the company says helps everything from the immune system to joint function. The distributors we bought it from said they even feed it to their dog. It tastes like a slightly bitter grape juice.
Name: MonaVie Size: 25 ounces Focus fruit: acai Single bottle cost: $45 Price per shot: $1.80 Obtained from: MovaVie via UPS
Another big-boy on the multi-level marketing scene, MonaVie is a blend built around the acai berry from Brazil, along with other superfruits like pomegranate and kiwi; the company says that MonaVie helps with "joint health," cholesterol and immunity. It comes in a wine bottle -- which is fitting since it tastes like a flat, fruity Merlot with a sticky aftertaste.
Name: Miracle Fruits of the World Size: 30 ounces Focus fruit: pomegranate, mangosteen and acai Single bottle cost: $16 Price per shot: $0.53 Obtained from: Costco
Miracle Fruits of the World is one of the many knock-off retail products that have jumped on the superfruit-drink bandwagon in recent years. Drinkables has a whole line of them available at Costco for between $14 and $20.
Miracle Fruits tries to cover all the bases by including things like mangosteen, noni, acai, aloe and ginseng with some vitamins; the result tastes like a watery V8 and has a slightly plastic smell. But the price sure is right, and it even comes in the same type of bottle as many fine malt liquors.
Name: Bazi Size: 16 ounces Focus fruit: jujube Single bottle cost: $25 Price per shot: $1.56 Obtained from: XELR8's Denver headquarters
Bazi is already described in this week's cover story as "slightly sweet and mineral-ly like crushed Flintstones vitamins sprinkled into a cocktail of various juice concentrates," so we'll stick with that. Although marketing efforts focus on the Chinese jujube fruit, Bazi also contains a global blend of mangosteen, seabuckthorn fruit, goji and acai, along with a horse pills' worth of vitamins and minerals.
This is the only drink that includes some caffeine, which may be the cause of the buzz some feel after taking a shot. The company says it's really the juice and vitamins at work in your body; it's even done promotional events at bars where the drink special is a "Bazitini."
Name: Alive! Size: 32 ounces Single bottle cost: $32 Focus fruit: goji Price per shot: $1 Obtained from: Vitamin Cottage
We picked up Alive! at a Vitamin Cottage while looking for a retail version of the Himalayan Goji, a multi-level marketing company.
The gogi berry from Tibet contributes to general health by "supporting the cells" in your body, says the Alive! website. In juice form, it tastes like a sweet carrot juice.
Name: Zrii Size: 25 ounces Single bottle cost: $40 Focus fruit: amalaki Price per shot: $1.60 Obtained from: Kevin Yeaman in Centennial
Zrii's big focus is the Amalaki, a small fruit from the Indian Himalayas. Fitting, then, that the juice is endorsed by the Chopra Center for Wellbeing operated by self-help spiritualist Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon.
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The New Age/Yoga crowd seems to be the target market for the supplement, which is derived from "ancient Ayurvedic wisdom and state-of-the-art Western medical science," according to marketing materials.
Maybe this is why drinking Zrii is like sucking on a juice box in a hospital waiting room, with a candy-like Robitussin taste coupled with the smell of an aneshetic. Don't say that to the meditation class, though.
Name: Daily Blast Size: 8 ounces Single bottle cost: $3.75 Focus fruit: A little of everything Price per shot: $0.46 Obtained from: Vitamin Cottage
Daily Blast is another Vitamin Cottage offering for people who want every single thing they heard was healthy -- rose hips, dandelion greens, red seaweed, etc. -- juiced and crammed into a single shot. It's no surprise that the result bears an uncanny resemblance to pond scum. It tastes better than it looks, though: kind of thick and almost sweet, like licking a pair of garden gloves.