We contracted Power Brands Consulting LLC to work on an organic energy drink that we wanted to introduce to the Australian market. When I met with the CEO Darin Ezra in California (July 2011) he told me how enthused he was about working with my company and personally assured me that they would "nail" the project.
I went back to Australia and wired them the money - a $10800 deposit on the total fee of $17000. I also engaged them in a separate transaction to oversee the production negotiations and manufacturing logistics. For this I paid $7500.
From the moment I handed over the money I had the feeling that the enthusiasm level dropped substantially. I started to notice that, if I sent them an email, I would often not receive a response. If I did it would rarely acknowledge or address what I had said in the email. If I had to described it simply, I would say that the tone in which they treated me was 'annoyed'.
When we got the first round of samples - well over the deadline - they were terrible. They tasted bitter and acrid, were too bubbly and the caffeine gave us all a headache. One of the things I had been insisting on was for us to use natural caffeine but this didn't seem to be the case when the samples arrived. For some reason they seemed completely incapable of working from the brief or meeting our needs. The project manager seemed to know "the best way" and anything that didn't fall into that category seemed to annoy her a lot!
I would have been cool with this if there had been an attempt to acknowledge that the samples were not great or even an attitude of "we will work hard to fix them". Mistakes are fine, an inevitable and essential part of business. But the response I got I could only describe as denial, resentment and derision. Like it was my fault.
I was told that they couldn't get some of the ingredients needed to improve the samples in the way I wanted so I set about trying to do it myself. After a few hours I had managed to track down those ingredients in the US (even though I was in Australia). Ironically one of the ingredient suppliers told me he had heard of a lot of people with similar experiences of Power Brands and he thought I should go elsewhere.
So, after tracking down the ingredients, I began to email the project manager to organize delivery. None of my emails were answered.
Howver, when I finally got one back after several attempts, it was from her email auto-responder saying she had gone on long service leave for an indefinite time. They obviously didn't think this was important enough to warrant telling the client (me). I had to find out from an auto-responder.
After emailing the CFO trying to find out was happening I was told I had a completely new project manager. By this stage I was pretty over it and decided to contact the CEO Darin Ezra and CFO Marty Molina to voice my concerns. After receiving a pretty cold response with no level of accountability or willingness to address the problems I decided to terminate the contract and go somewhere else. I'd already taken a big hit on the project timeline and couldn't afford any more delays.
I thought that - even though they totally neglected to deliver the services which they outlined in the contract - I would cut my losses and let them keep the $10800 deposit for formulation. However, the amount I paid for Manufacturing Supervision - $7500 - I felt should be refunded to me given that we never got anywhere near that part of the project and that they had completed absolutely no work whatsoever on those services.
Unfortunately this did not suit them. They insisted that I owed them the remainder for the formulation, despite not making it past the first stage, and they would subtract it from the $7500. Then they advised I could have the remainder in "Sell sheets, Distributor buyer contact lists, Retailer buyer contact lists, Beverage Sales training, Retailer/Distributor, Buyer Presentations, etc"
To me that is like saying we will refund your rotten apple with two more rotten apples. I'll pass thanks.
So here is my advice to anyone thinking of using these guys for a beverage project. Don't. Under any circumstances. Since leaving we have found another formulator who has been absolutely brilliant. Really innovative and responsive and the samples we received from them blew us away.
As I am learning, there are quite a few sub-standard operators in the beverage industry and I think these guys are at the top of the heap.