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PRIME price slash: Shoprite switches to local manufacturer

| Supplier news

By: Nick Wilson - News24

PRIME Hydration, the beverage brand partly owned and endorsed by celebrity YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI, is selling for a mere R10 in Shoprite's Checkers stores, some 75% lower than its initial price point last year.

Explaining the huge price drop-off on Friday, Shoprite, which used its logistical and distribution muscle to bring the popular drink to its Checkers and Checkers Hyper stores in April last year, said it had lowered the price significantly to rid itself of all existing imported stocks as it geared itself up to now source it from a local manufacturer.

When SA's largest retailer first announced to the market it was bringing the drink to SA for R39.99 in April last year, it created a buzz on social media, as the drink had previously been retailing at some outlets in SA for as much as R500 for a 500ml bottle owing to strong demand for the beverage from Gen Zers.

Even today, some of the flavours – such as a 500ml bottle of strawberry and watermelon – sell for as much as R120 on Takealot.com.

Responding to questions from News24, Shoprite said the Checkers supermarket chain was "clearing the last of its imported PRIME Hydration stock as the product will soon be produced and bottled locally". It did not disclose the name of the local manufacturer.

The discounted price at Checkers and Checkers Hyper stores also has no link to the controversy surrounding the PRIME group's energy sports drinks in the US, where lawsuits have been launched over their chemical composition and the allegedly excessive amounts of caffeine they contain.

The most recent lawsuit in New York, USA Today reported in April, revolved around alleged misleading practices regarding the company's 12-ounce energy drinks containing between 215 to 225 milligrams of caffeine in contrast to the 200 milligrams advertised.

USA Today noted another class action suit from 2023, which alleges that the grape flavour of the company's sports drinks contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or "forever chemicals".

Asked to comment about the US news reports on PRIME Hydration, Shoprite said all its imports underwent "port authorities' inspections" by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to "ensure compliance with South African health and food safety standards".

"Additionally, the retail group only procures from reputable, vetted companies with the required food safety certifications in place."

Takealot declined to comment.

YouTuber Paul himself has //www.tiktok.com/@loganpaul/video/7361413469867953450?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&;web_id=7364801272677680645">dismissed the allegations in a video on Tiktok, saying PRIME followed "every single guideline and regulation", adding that previous claims that the US Food and Drug Administration was probing the beverage "never happened".

"They never called because we follow every single guideline and regulation."

As for the lawsuits in the US, Paul also noted that in that country "anyone can sue anyone at any time".

"That does not make the lawsuit true and in this case it is not. There are claims that forever chemicals come from plastic, so in this case they are not talking about the actual drink, the liquid PRIME, they are talking about the bottle that PRIME is manufactured in. This ain't a rinky-dink operation. We use the top bottle manufacturers in the United States…"

Shoprite also referred News24 to a statement from Congo Brands, the company that holds the PRIME brand, which noted that its "local colleagues" in the US had filed a motion to dismiss the PFAS lawsuit case. The statement in question from the Europe Middle East Africa office of Congo Brands in Switzerland appeared to be addressed to the group's retail partners.

"No evidence was provided for the case. We are challenging the allegations holistically, including with science-based facts from our manufacturing and packaging partners," said the statement.

As to what exactly PFAS chemicals are, it said that these were a "group of manufactured chemicals that have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their advantageous properties".

Congo Brands said one common concern about a PFAS substance is that many break down very slowly and can build accordingly in the environment over time.

"Accumulation of certain PFAS has also been shown through blood tests to occur in humans and animals. Science surrounding potential negative health effects of this bioaccumulation is still developing, as it does with many environmental contaminations."

Congo Brands also told its retail partners to assure customers that it was "adhering at any time to all relevant regulatory requirements in all its business territories".

"Our raw materials, packaging materials, manufacturing and storage/distribution processes are guarded by strict processes to ensure high-quality products."

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