Emerging Category Winner
MonaVie, a Salt Lake City-based producer of a nutritional drink made from the Brazilian açai berry and 18 other fruits, has demonstrated stunning growth since Dallin Larsen founded it in 2005. The company brought in $854 million in revenue in 2008, says the 50-year-old Larsen. But don't look for MonaVie on store shelves. The company uses a "network selling" or "multilevel marketing" sales structure, like Amway's or Mary Kay Cosmetics', where customers are actually independent distributors recruited to sell to friends and neighbors. Critics say this structure often misrepresents how much people will make and puts too much focus on signing up new salespeople. Larsen instead paints it as the most effective way to sell a product that needs a story or explanation behind it. He says more than 1 million people have signed up for MonaVie, which goes for about $40 a bottle, and the company has hundreds of thousands of active sellers. About 75% of them are actually buying MonaVie for personal use, he says, but others are making a small extra income and a select few are bringing in big bucks. "I never say this is get rich quick. It's not. Some açai marketers credit the juice with miracle properties like anti-aging or weight-loss, but Larsen simply claims his product is an effective way to get antioxidants. This is hard work," he says. "As a company, we don't make any claims that this product treats, cures, or mitigates disease."