We tried all four PRIME drink flavours Checkers sells

Checkers launched the PRIME “hydration drink” line of beverages to much fanfare on Monday, with each 500ml bottle selling for R39.99.

PRIME grabbed headlines in mid-April when well-known broadcasters Leanne Manas and Anele Mdoda posted on Twitter about kids pestering their parents about it, and its high domestic price.

Mdoda later posted a picture showing an Engen forecourt selling the drink for an eye-watering R479.90 per 500ml bottle.

Just over a week later, Shoprite announced that it would launch the beverage at 237 stores nationwide.

We bought and tasted all four flavours available through Checkers — Ice Pop, Lemon Lime, Blue Raspberry, and Tropical Punch.

All of the drinks were extremely sweet, despite the relatively low levels of sugar content.

According to the ingredients list, PRIME relies on sucralose and acesulfame potassium to get its hyper-sweet taste.

Our testers’ notes on each flavour are summarised below.

  • Ice Pop — Smells slightly of marzipan or almond paste and tastes almost like an extremely sweet effervescent vitamin tablet after it stops fizzing.
  • Lemon Lime — Tastes like Mountain Dew without the bubbles. One tester said, “Wow, that’s sweet. It’s nice… just too sweet.”
  • Blue Raspberry — Tastes like an extremely sweet version of the aloe-flavoured drinks you can buy for under R20 per bottle.
  • Tropical Punch — Tastes basically like the Ice Pop flavour, just coloured red using carrot extract.

Several PRIME flavours are still unavailable through Checkers: Grape, Meta Moon, Orange, and Strawberry Watermelon.

Aside from noting the drinks’ sweetness, the consensus among testers was that they were average and not worth the premium price relative to products like Energade, Lucozade, Powerade, and various aloe-flavoured drinks.

Checkers’ private label and imports head Renaldo Phillips also noted that they currently only stock the sports “hydration drink”, not PRIME’s energy drink variant.

Speaking to 702 on Tuesday, he assured that should they choose to carry the energy drink, it would not be marketed at children.

Phillips also said the response they’ve received from shoppers to PRIME is unlike anything he has ever seen.

“It truly shows where we’ve gone as a society; the power of social media,” said Phillips.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to, retailers that have been around for 30 years… [have] never seen anything like this. It really, really has blown our mind[s].”

Bronwyn Williams

Economist and trend analyst Bronwyn Williams told the radio station she wouldn’t be surprised if the initial R480 price was part of a larger marketing strategy.

She explained that it set an anchor price, which made the R40 price point look cheap by comparison.

Williams also said that part of the excitement around the brand in the weeks before Checkers announced its launch was its exclusivity.

Having a bottle of PRIME conferred a form of social status, she said.

“Teenagers, like all human beings, but particularly younger people, are very susceptible to phenomena such as mimesis, which really refers to the fact that we want what other people want and in particular, we want what other perceived to be high-status people want,” she told EWN.

With PRIME becoming more accessible, it is effectively eating its own tail and eroding its position as a high-status brand.

However, its pricing and lack of general availability were only part of the story.

The exclusivity would’ve meant nothing had PRIME not been associated with celebrities Logan Paul and Olajide “KSI” Olatunji — both YouTubers and social media influencers.

Olajide “KSI” Olatunji (left and Logan Paul (right)

PRIME is manufactured by Congo Brands, a company co-owned by American businessmen Max Clemons and Trey Steiger.

Although Paul and Olatunji claimed to have founded the company, they appear to merely be its promoters.

Neither Paul nor Olatunji are listed as registered agents for PRIME Hydration, LLC in the United States. They also aren’t listed as controlling shareholders of Prime Hydration UK. Paul is from the US, and Olatumji is from the UK.

Despite this, the Congo Brands website states that PRIME was founded by the pair of “social media megastars.”

It also says that Congo Brands was developed to “create synergies” between the independent brands they’ve co-founded over the years.

“Brands in the Congo portfolio may have ownership beyond Trey and Max, however, they do provide key insights into the operations of each brand.”

Paul has frequently courted controversy, including a trip to Japan in December 2017, where he was accused of behaving disrespectfully. He also received heavy criticism after seeking and then apparently filming a dead body in a known “suicide forest.”

Most recently, YouTuber and investigative reporter Stephen “Coffeezilla” Findeisen accused Paul of scamming his fans through an NFT and cryptocurrency project called CryptoZoo.

Paul initially threatened to sue Findeisen, but later apologised and promised to do right by his fans that invested in the project.

Now read: Zulzi beats Checkers, Pick n Pay, Woolworths — South African grocery delivery price comparison

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We tried all four PRIME drink flavours Checkers sells