Buyer Beware of Online Acai Offers

Today billion-dollar beverage giants, including Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Anheuser-Busch Cos., are adding the fruit to their beverage lineups, according to The Wall Street Journal. It's also found in products from Stonyfield Farm and Haagen-Dazs. Procter & Gamble Co. recently infused acai into its Herbal Essence shampoos and conditioners.

Online, Sambazon sells acai in various forms -- frozen pulp, smoothie, juice, capsules and powder -- but does not offer the "hype" about weight loss or the "free" trial offer.

Although Sambazon does rely on endorsements from some celebrities, like skateboarder Bob Burnquist, the company does not reference either Oprah or Dr. Oz on its Web site.

The company has also been barraged with telephone calls and complaints on its Web site, acai.com, from consumers who have confused Sambazon with companies that use the misleading practices, according to co-founder Ed Nichols.

"All day, every day since this thing started, we've been hearing, 'Please stop charging my credit card now,'" said Nichols. "But when people do reach out to us and say help get us out of this scam, we educate them about our sincere products."

Sambazon, too, relies on celebrity endorsements like Winfrey but stands by its product, which it makes in the company factory in Brazil and ships directly to buyers.

"Anybody can go down to Brazil and buy acai and call a fruit broker, but it spoils almost immediately after picking," he said.

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