Multi-level marketing is a subject that comes up often when looking into the health food, supplement, and diet pill markets. MLM companies work by encouraging ordinary members of the public to become distributors, buying massive quantities of products to sell on to their friends (or signing loved ones and acquaintances up as distributors as well). Although profitable for corporate directors, this model often results in very few ordinary distributors making money, and also often covers up an otherwise unremarkable or unsatisfactory product.
Below, we take a look at a relatively new player in the nutrition-based, MLM world: Zurvita.
What is Zurvita?
Zurvita is a whole-food nutrition company and multi-level marketing company based in Texas, USA. A relatively new player to the market, Zurvita uses standard MLM methods of signing up ordinary distributors (labelled as “consultants”) to market and sell their product on their behalf.
Zurvita’s product range is largely geared toward healthy living. As of 2016, only two major product lines are available on the website; the Zeal Wellness Drink/ Supplement and the Zurvita Protein Drink/Supplement. Notably, this product line has been vastly reduced from the years prior, which used to include a range of other health products and corporate services.
Along with the products themselves, Zurvita offers a Weight Management Program that claims to provide better fitness and an “improved lifestyle”. Each program comes with a course of Zeal (the all-in-one “wellness formula”), along with Zurvita Protein and two exclusive supplements, Zurvita Burn (a herbal probiotic) and Zurvita Cleanse (a colon cleansing supplement).
The Weight Management Program also comes with a range of motivational, inspirational and educational materials that claim to help users achieve greater success with the product.
Visitors to Zurvita’s website will note that these limited product ranges are described in detail but are not available directly. The website requires all visitors to enter the ID of a Zurvita consultant before placing any order, and it is generally expected that most customers will be purchasing directly from a Zurvita “consultant”, whether online or in person.
The easiest way to purchase anything directly from Zurvita is to become one of their many distributors (labelled by the company as “consultants”) or to deal directly with them. Zurvita consultants are responsible for advising customers and marketing the products, and the network can be seen on a range of blogs, websites and YouTube channels throughout the Internet.
Zurvita Company History
Zurvita was founded by Mark and Tracy Jarvis in 2008, initially operating as an online shop selling a variety of B2B and utilities products. From 2010-2011, the group moved into the “wellness” market and began selling health supplements and recruiting consultants.
From 2015, Zurvita appears to have restructured again, launching a new “wellness” product line and opening up a new HQ centre for its consultants in Texas. The company currently operates in 6 countries (USA, Canada, Australia, Dominican Republic, UK and Germany), and boasted an attendance of 3000 participants for a 2016 conference in San Antonio, Texas.
The company also claims have grown from earning $3 million in revenue in 2011 to $70 million in 2014. It now aims to grow to $100 million in revenue in 2016. A brief look at Zurvita’ stock value over the same period seems to suggest that the company was seen as most valuable back in 2013, and has since steadily declined year-on-year since then.
The company has long had a notable religious bent that is immediately apparent from their videos, mission statement and related corporate interests. The company was founded to “glorify God” after a period of reflection and prayer. A near-identically named religious group called Zurvita Ministries also operates from San Antonio in Texas, perhaps suggesting that Zurvita’s founders are involved with religious proselytising along with their business activities.
Becoming a Zurvita Consultant
Like many MLMs, Zurvita is held up by a large network of independent distributors, which they label “consultants”. As a buyer, products are available most readily and easily from consultant-run websites and outlets.
Becoming a consultant is often described as a good opportunity for ordinary people. The section covering recruiting as a consultant on the website states that,
Because we are driven to help every person believe that they matter, we’ve created an opportunity where people from all walks of life can reach financial freedom by sharing our products with other people. Everyone has the opportunity to participate in and create an immediate income, as well as recurring long-term monthly earnings, based on performance…. whether you’re looking for an extra $100 a month, or a few thousand per month, it’s possible with Zurvita.
However, the basic MLM structure of the business idea will limit the success of individual consultants. Consultants are rewarded in a number of ways; they are able to make 20% commission on their direct sales and receive a number of bonuses for encouraging customers to sign up to different schemes. However, by far the most lucrative way to make money in Zurvita (the kind that the company promotes in its events and advertising materials) is to sign up new consultants.
The Zurvita reward structure offers consultants 5% commission on their downline (i.e 5% of the total sales made by all consultants that they have recruited, either directly or by their recruits). This complex system means that potentially thousands of dollars are available to those that make few sales and simply recruit hundreds of other consultants and encourage those to do the same.
As a model, it’s highly unsustainable and in other MLMs has often resulted in the vast majority of distributors (sometimes 95% or more) making little to no money. If no money is made, many Zurvita consultants can expect to make a big loss.
The initial start-up costs for becoming a Zurvita consultant are substantial, meaning that all consultants must have a good sales plan before giving it a go. All new recruits must pay a $39.95 registration fee and are given three options for purchasing initial stock, called ‘Paks’.
- Builders Pak – $569.95. This pack is described as the most popular and comprehensive option, and the one that Zurvita recommends most enthusiastically. It comes with 1 weight management program, 4 Zeal canisters, 72 Zeal single-serve bottles, and 24 Zurvita Protein single-serve bottles.
- Quick Start Combo Pak – $379.95. This pack contains 4 Zeal canisters, 48 Zeal single-serve bottles, 2 Zurvita Protein canisters, and 24 Zurvita Protein single-serve bottles.
- Zeal Quick Start Pak – $294.95. This pack contains 2 Zeal canisters and 96 Zeal single-serve bottles. Zurvita consultants also have the option of purchasing other forms of initial stock, from single canisters to packs of single-serve bottles. Shockingly, almost all of these products are actually available for a cheaper price on Amazon, which leaves one to question how any consultant could make sales profits and mark-ups from the high prices charged by the company itself.
This situation may also suggest that existing Zurvita consultants are currently selling their products for less than they bought them for, which once again highlights the potential difficulty of making money as an MLM distributor. To compound the issue, it seems that although customers enjoy a 30 day money-back guarantee on their first purchase, consultants can only get refunds on their purchases from speaking to Zurvita customer service (with individual cases suggesting that refunds are not typically forthcoming for those with excess stock).
Many of the aspects of Zurvita’s business model seems to suggest the group works more effectively as a pyramid scheme than as a company that sells health products. A business is defined as a pyramid scheme when its profits are derived from recruiting distributors, rather than from sales of product. Creating downlines of chains of salespeople is the backbone of any MLM business, leaving many to state that these businesses should be considered pyramid schemes in all but name.
The most worrying aspect of this model for new Zurvita consultants is that markets are saturated with the product because many others are trying to sell the product. Zurvita products are being sold on Amazon at greatly reduced prices compared to the RRP, and some sellers appear to have cut prices below the wholesale price found on the official website (for new consultants buying their initial stock). In this instance, the only way to make money is to sign up new people, making the problem worse for everyone except those at the very top.
See our previous investigation into pyramid selling and diet pill marketing schemes.
Buying Zurvita Supplements
When discussing all of the above, it can be easy to forget about the most important aspect of any company; the quality of the products they sell. Zurvita sells an overall “wellness” formula called Zeal which is advertised as being able to boost energy, optimize health, and help users to maintain a healthy weight. They also sell a protein supplement which claims to help users to build muscle, boost metabolism, maintain a healthy heart and strong bones, and repair tissue.
The Zurvita Zeal supplement has some good product reviews on Amazon, although many others claim it did little for them and that the taste is very poor. Ingredient quantities are not listed on the website or on the bottle itself, making it hard to estimate how effective it might be, although a cursory glance suggests that it is unlikely to bring all the effects it promises to users. For the most part, its high caffeine content and associated health warnings suggest that it works as a stimulant-based weight loss supplement.
The Zurvita Protein supplement also has a number of good reviews on Amazon and others, with few comments about bad taste. However, other reviewers point out a painfully obvious point that could be made about all Zurvita products; any customer should be able to get the same or better for a fraction of the price elsewhere. 30-day supplies of Zurvita Zeal or Protein formulas can be found cheapest for $50-$65 on Amazon, making it one of the pricier supplement options for buyers.
Zurvita has a good score on the Better Business Bureau, and appears to be committed to dealing with the complaints that are posted there on an individual basis. However, the complaints issued often seem to be focused on the same recurring issues.
Many customers complain about the auto-shipping program being issued without consent, or too much money being taken for bills. Issues seem to arise from certain consultants acting dishonestly, and from company staff not following refund procedures correctly. One example highlights a typical issue:
We were lied and tricked into signing up for zeal. We were ensured by a zeal consultant that our purchase was a one time charge of 106.00 dollars. We we were then “set up” for recurring purchases without authorization. We did not authorize an additional purchases our charges to our bank account…. We contacted customer service and was rudely informed that we could not return the product and receive a refund. Even though we never authorized any additional charges. This is a pyramid scheme and we were defrauded by this company. We would like to have this issue resolved.
All Zurvita customers should continue to take care to ensure that they were not signed up for an auto-ship program or overcharged by their Zurvita consultant.
Zurvita is not a company we recommend, either as a customer or as a consultant. As with all MLM companies, the chances of anyone being able to make a living from Zurvita is extremely minimal, and all successful people within the system often make their money simply by having hundreds of people below them. The company seems to be slightly more approachable and friendly than others in the market, but the high cost of joining and the relatively low prices of the products on Amazon should act as warning flags for those considering joining the company.
In our opinion, the products are also unremarkable. The Zeal formula in particular is highly expensive and is unlikely to work as advertised. Many customers also complain that it tastes bad, meaning that it doesn’t even enjoy the distinction of being enjoyable to take.
Like many other companies in the industry, Zurvita is largely based on a convincing sales pitch and hype driven by thousands of consultants desperate to sign you up. We advise you to stay away from Zurvita!
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.