Maintenance Phase

BONUS: Moon Juice Taste Test

September 06, 2022
Maintenance Phase
BONUS: Moon Juice Taste Test
Show Notes Transcript

This week's episode is running late so here's something to tide you over!

Last year, we did an episode on Gwyneth-adjacent influencer Amanda Chantal Bacon and her wellness company, Moon Juice. This year we decided to TASTE THE DUST.

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Thanks to Doctor Dreamchip for our lovely theme song!

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[Maintenance Phase Podcast theme] 

Michael: Okay, I've [laughs] had minutes to think about this, and I couldn't come up with something good. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Okay, the only thing I could think of was, welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that is sometimes rusty, but never dusty.

Aubrey: [laughs] All right, I like that one.

Michael: I don't know what it means, but it rhymes.

Aubrey: I don't know what it means either. I feel a little rusty. Do you feel a little rusty? 

Michael: Have you heard our other taglines? 


Michael: Like [laughs] not been rusty. 

Aubrey: We were entirely composed of rust.


Aubrey: I'm Aubrey Gordon.

Michael: I'm Michael Hobbes. And you know that. You know us. You're here. 

Aubrey: You know that. 

Michael: Hello. 

Aubrey: And this month, Michael, we're digging in on some updates from my old favorite, Moon Juice.

Michael: I am so excited.

Aubrey: We're doing a thing that I've wanted to do with you for ages, which is a Moon Dust taste test.

Michael: Yes. I received in the mail a few days ago, a package with a lovely card and a bunch of little sachets that I thought were condoms and I was like, "Why is Aubrey sending me condoms?" And then, I was like, "Oh, they're actually--" Wait, can I read the ones you sent me? 

Aubrey: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: Okay. So, I have what was it, like the sampler platter or something? It's the flight dust? Dust flight?

Aubrey: They call it the Full Moon. 

Michael: Okay. [laughs] 

Aubrey: A genuinely not a-- [laughs].

Michael: This is literally all marketing. So, it makes sense that these people are good at marketing. 

Aubrey: Absolutely. 

Michael: Okay. They're all in like wonderful earth tones. I have a sachet of Spirit Dust, I have Beauty Dust, I have Power Dust. That one's yellow. I have Dream Dust, Sex Dust, obviously, and Brain Dust.

Aubrey: Listen, we haven't decided which ones of these to try. We haven't decided whether you and I are trying the same things or different things, any of that stuff. But I do just want to say, I feel we would be underdelivering if at least one of us didn't taste Sex Dust.

Michael: You have to walk me through how to do this, because I don't know how to consume a dust.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: My prediction is that this is going to be a very disappointing taste test because they probably don't taste like anything. It's basically, which is a-

Aubrey: Oh, that's very possible. 

Michael: -crushed-up nutrition supplement. It's just a normal thing. They basically rebranded taking a morning multivitamin as dust to make it, I guess, more of a ritual. I think it's a marketing thing, because it's basically just a pill that you swallow, but they're turning it into this activity that you do in the morning, I guess.

Aubrey: Well, except it's different than a multivitamin, because it does not have vitamins added.

Michael: [laughs] It is useless. 

Aubrey: It's a vitamin without the vitamins. [laughs] 

Michael: Because it's safe. [laughs] 

Aubrey: In addition to this taste test, folks that Insider did-- You know they do their pieces that are like, "Let's go inside a troubled company"?

Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Aubrey: They did one on Moon Juice earlier this year and it's a wild ride. I'll say, there's a lot in this piece. We're going to skate past some of it, because it's just generally messy. As ever, we're going to do my favorite thing, which is go in escalating-- Like, it's going to get worse and worse the further we go, and we'll do our taste test in there as we're walking through. There is some stuff related to the ingredients that I was reading last night as I prepped for the show and I was like, "We should talk about this before we do a taste test," because there's some allegations.

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: There's some allegations. 

Michael: Oh, my God. 

Aubrey: But first, Mike, tell me what do you remember about Moon Juice?

Michael: I think the main thing I remember is Amanda Chantal Bacon, who is the Gwyneth of Moon Juice. And she became infamous through this food diary, another food diary person, again, being like, "I have spirulina herbal cashews every day and goji berry, stevia milk for lunch." Just had a list of superfood fads. Everyone made fun of her and then it seems she's very successfully turned this into this brand of health LA influencer smoothie stuff.

Aubrey: Totally. In terms of food diaries, Pete Evans walks so that Amanda Chantal Bacon could run. 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: She really took that business over the finish line. Impressive. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: I would say, we didn't really hear a lot in that first episode about the internal life at Moon Juice, because there hadn't really been much reporting on it at that point. But if you think about a company with really dubious marketing practices, a company making big claims and doing this pretty aggressive whitewashing of Eastern and indigenous medicine and healing traditions, it's not going to be great inside that company. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: It follows to me that a founder who's going in Elle magazine to talk about her 23-minute breath set before her son, Rohan, wakes is probably not the greatest, most communicative manager.

Michael: Did you make that up or is that a real fucking thing?

Aubrey: That's a real thing and I'm pretty sure I got it verbatim. I don't know for sure.

Michael: Fuck off.

Aubrey: But listen, Mike, we've talked about like this is the shit that I yell about at parties when I'm drinking-- 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: -like, "All right, everybody, I'm getting out Amanda Chantal Bacon food dairy and you are all listening to it." 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: The headline to know about Moon Juice is that they traffic in what are called adaptogens, which folks will have seen more and more of over the last couple of years since that episode. The idea behind adaptogens are essentially that there are some kinds of substances that you can consume, that you can ingest that will be like the skeleton key to whatever your body needs to deal with whatever stress it is under.

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: Yeah. I will say, I read a piece last night from Fox that called adaptogens "the cryptocurrency of the wellness world."

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: And I was like, "Wait a minute, I need you to unpack that." I was like, "Actually, I don't."

Michael: And also, cryptocurrency is the QAnon of finance people. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: So, by the transitive property, this is the territory that we're in.

Michael: Vox summed up the research on adaptogens as and I quote, "conclusively inconclusive." 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: There's just not really anything to know here. Almost everything has been an animal study, the handful of human trials that have been done have been small. They've been published in these niche journals. We just generally don't really know at any reliable level what the impact on humans is.

Michael: Yeah. But also, I feel the way that you can tell this is because if there actually were decent studies and good information indicating that there was a magical ingredient in some foods and not other foods, it would be a really big deal. It's self-negating the idea that we would discover something that like, "Oh, it reverses the aging process," and the entire public health and academic institutional infrastructure of America is just like, "Eh, let's let people sell it online.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: It does not make any sense.

Aubrey: Well, I think it's also worth noting that Moon Juice and adaptogens are moving into a similar space as really a lot of wellness trends right now. I think probiotics go in this camp. We know that your gut microbiome matters and what kind of bacteria you have in your digestive tract matters. We know that there are "good kinds of bacteria". And by the way, when people talk about good kinds of bacteria, the other way that folks refer to that is skinny bacteria. 

Michael: Oh.

Aubrey: It's genuine. It's like they're talking about good and bad gut bacteria, they're straight up talking about like, "These are the ones that make you fat and these are the ones that are associated with thin people." 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: What we don't know is how to change the gut bacteria that you have. So, basically, what's happening right now is, people are like, "Kombucha has a bunch of the "good skinny bacteria in it."'

Michael: Oh, yeah. 

Aubrey: "So, I'm just going to chug kombucha," or whatever. But we don't really know, if that actually, meaningfully changes anything in the long term or even mid term.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: We don't actually know what the health effects are of that in any meaningful way just yet.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: I will say, just as a starting point, as a little on ramp to our Moon Juice updates, there was quite a bit in the Insider piece that totally reminded me of messy nonprofit dynamics. 

Michael: Yeah, I was thinking that too, because you've got a charismatic founder and then the entire company is made in their image. This often happens around figures in development, who get a lot of media attention and then they form NGOs around their personal story or whatever, and they hire a bunch of people. But then, it turns out that managing organizations is actually really hard. And then, you've got all these people that are like, "Uh, I go to work every day and we're just this weird shadow organization that's run by someone who's a little nuts or has these weird ideas. But they are the only reason we get funding. They are the only reason our organization exists. So, we have to keep propping up this person."

Aubrey: Yep.

Michael: Yes, I have had many friends, who have been trapped in organizations like this.

Aubrey: 100%. In org development world, you call that founder syndrome.

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: A thing that felt symptomatic of that kind of thing is-- [chuckles] One of the things that they reported in the Insider piece is that Amanda Chantal Bacon moved to Montecito.

Michael: Wait, what's that? Where's Montecito? Is that in California?

Aubrey: Oh, Mike, we're getting into it. Montecito is just outside of Santa Barbara. It is one of the wealthiest towns in the United States. Oprah lives there, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live there. 

Michael: I only know the names of the rich places when they do shows with "Real Housewives of" in the title and then I learn-- [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: [laughs] Or, a prestige vehicle for Laura Dern. 

Michael: Yes. [laughs] 

Aubrey: This is one of the messy nonprofit things, where I was like, "Uh-huh, this tracks." Amanda Chantal Bacon moved to Montecito. She gave a quote at one point that was like, "Something just happens to my ions when I'm out here." [laughs] You're just in a famously lush, and beautiful, and staggeringly wealthy place.

Michael: It just does something to my ions when I go to the country club and [crosstalk] with other titans of the industry. So, I don't know what it is.

Aubrey: It does something to her ions. She moved to Montecito, and staff at the company found out through the grapevine that she moved to another town. And I was like, "This is nonprofit garbage. This full nonprofit garage."

Michael: Yeah, this is-- [crosstalk] I know so many people in nonprofits, it's like-- Another thing in founder syndrome is that oftentimes, the person who founded the organization, whose existence the entire organization depends on gets real fucking bored, a lot of these people mentally and sometimes physically, clearly, just totally check out. 

Aubrey: Yeah. The other one that felt extremely nonprofity to me was there were a ton of rumors internally that she's thinking of selling the company. Oh, that also seems deep nonprofit nonsense, that you would have six months of rumors with no statement from management about like, "Are we going to merge? Did we just lose an organizational life-sustaining grant?"

Michael: Yeah. And then, you would merge or get scooped up by some bigger NGO and they're like, "Nothing's going to change. Everything's going to be exactly the same." And then, you get laid off two weeks later. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Everyone's fired. Yep, total bloodbath, everybody's fired. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: This was the last one that I was like, "Oh, this is chef's kiss. This is the pinnacle of nonprofitiness of these updates." They decided at the end of 2020 that they should than their employees for continuing to work through the pandemic. And their thank you for a year of working through a global pandemic was that every employee got one frozen pizza.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: But frozen pizza was from [unintelligible 00:12:48]. 


Aubrey: That's a $70 frozen pizza, guys. 

Michael:  A fucking frozen pizza. It's not even fresh pizza. 


Aubrey: It's so conceptually insulting.

Michael: Oh, my God, that's like the stories that went around Seattle after our WNBA team, the Storm, won the National Championships. 

Aubrey: Uh-huh. 

Michael: Howard Schultz, the owner of Starbucks and also who owned that team at the time, he gave every player on the team a Starbucks gift card.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This is the rumor. I don't know if it's true. But apparently, one of the actual team members, like a WNBA player took her mom to Starbucks and ordered two lattes or whatever, and gave them the gift card, and they're like, "Oh, you still owe me like a $1.30 over the value of the card."

Aubrey: Oh, my God, so, it was a $10 gift card or something?

Michael: It was $5.

Aubrey: Holy fucking shit. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Meanwhile, dudes who finished 10th are being invited to the White House, you're like, "What the fuck, man?"

Michael: [laughs] I know. But yeah, it's more insulting to just not get anything in situations like that than to get something that stingy.

Aubrey: I think the only thing more conceptually insulting would be pizza rolls or bagel bites. 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: So, those are the nonprofity updates. The first one that we're going to do in earnest, we've got, I think, three escalating concerns of to talk about. The headline about this one I would say is, it's off brand and it's not great, but it doesn't go much further than that. So, Moon Juice talks a good game on their website, in their packaging, all kinds of stuff about climate change and environmentalism. They offer compostable flatware, cups, and plates at all their locations. One of their locations had a compost bin for customers for quite some time. 

Michael: So, you can eat at Moon Juice? I thought it was a store. 

Aubrey: It's like a juice place. They put their juice in cups that you can compost. They even say on their website, "We invest in a future filled with more composting facilities than garbage dumps." But oops, in this Insider piece, staff are now saying that, "Even at the locations that had compost bins, there was no composting available. So, employees were just told to throw it in the trash."

Michael: Oh, nice. [laughs] 

Aubrey: It wasn't because of any external like, "We're renting in a building, and they don't have a composting service," or whatever, it was just straight up Moon Juice wasn't going to pay for a composting service. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Metaphorically meaningful, not a great look. But not a crime.

Michael: Right. It's a funny thing to criticize a company for, because plenty of companies don't compost.

Aubrey: Yes.

Michael: Ultimately, at the end of the day, it's just a company that doesn't compost, what gives them the criticism is the hypocrisy.

Aubrey: No one's picketing 7-11 for not posting.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: Because you don't expect 7-11 to compost. That's sure. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: That's not great, but mostly, it's just off brand. But then things get more off brand. Before we started, I told you, we should not start with the taste test, because I wanted to have a moment of informed consent. 

Michael: Okay. Oh, no.

Aubrey: Like, I want you to know what you're getting into.

Michael: Man. How many shots from the BioCharger am I using it to recover from this taste test? 

Michael: Moon Juice has been telling people this extremely precious story about how their ingredients are harvested. They're wild crafted, which is a very fancy term for basically foraging.

Michael: They're picked. They're picked. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Yes. No one's talking about farmworkers wild crafting. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: It's really that's not what's happening there. This is a quote directly from this Insider piece. It's so good. I'm going to link it in the post on Patreon so that folks can read this, because it's bonkers. "Store employees said that they were taught to say that all of Moon Juice's products were sustainably and ethically sourced and that Moon Juice set itself apart by importing whole plants that are "custom extracted" at a wind-powered facility in the Pacific Northwest using local spring water."

Michael: Fuck off, Amanda. You didn't need to throw in wind powered. [laughs] 

Aubrey: You know what this sounds like? This sounds like a partner lying about where they've been. "Well, I was out getting you flowers, but the florist was closed. So, I had to go to a different flo--" Really, none of those things happened. 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: You were gilding the lily. 

Michael: I was receiving my Nobel Prize at the time that I was not-- [crosstalk] [laughs] 

Aubrey: Given that story that employees are trained to tell customers, those employees were very surprised when a dude showed up in one of their stores saying that he was the CEO of one of Moon Juice's biggest suppliers. Moon Juice is built considerably around Ayurvedic principles, right? Ayurveda, a system of medicine and healing that is mostly born of what is now called India. This supplier says that he is providing Moon Juice with all of its ashwagandha, which is one of its most used ingredients. It's in almost all of the dusts, it's in many of the juices. It's in a lot, a lot, a lot of things. 

This dude said that all of their stuff was extracted and powdered, turned into a powder in India and then shipped to the US as a powder. No Pacific Northwest facility, no wind powered, no local spring water. No, nothing. He was just like, "[Crosstalk] It's an Indian ingredient from an Indian healing tradition that is being shipped to you from India." The thing that feels wild to me about this is the incredible commitment to whitewashing. 

Michael: Yeah, it's interesting. Yeah.

Aubrey: "We're going to take this thing, we're going to give you this broad sense of Eastern healing, but we're going to make sure that every face of that that you see is associated with whiteness and Westernness and conventional beauty," all of that kind of stuff. So, that's the thing that's wild to me here is not that they would have a supplier in India, like, "Yeah, man. Great. Sure." But that they would make up this extremely baroque story, like a fairy tale about like, "Everything's extracted in the Pacific Northwest. The beating heart of whiteness, the Pacific Northwest." Jesus Christ.

Michael: Well, also progressiveness and it also has this thing of like, "And nothing is tainted by any kind of moral compromise." Because if it was a facility in Alabama, then it's like, "Well, what about the abortion rights of the workers?" There's some complication that is presented by basically every story. Except for fucking wind-powered, spring water, Pacific Northwest. You never get to deal with any moral complexity.

Aubrey: Right. And you just imagine a slightly crunchier version of Amanda Chantal Bacon up in some woodsy Northwest city. It doesn't interrupt your deeply whitewashed imagination. 

Michael: Yeah, it's a bunch of white people in Twin Peaks putting stuff in boxes, and going out in the woods in galoshes and picking mushrooms.

Aubrey: Now that you've mentioned Twin Peaks, I like imagining the wind-powered, spring water powered facility as run just by Log Lady. 


Aubrey: So, this is the point at which I'm like, "Oh, this doesn't seem great." And then, it gets real bad. It looks like in the past, according to some previous employees, Amanda Chantal Bacon has tried to use contaminated ingredients.

Michael: Oh. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Moon Juice had a Director of Operations for a couple of years named Manuel Alvarado. He told Insider that they had received a batch at one point from one of their suppliers of pearl powder, which is also very commonly used. And that batch of pearl powder from that supplier was contaminated with E. coli.

Michael: What? Wait, how's that even possible?

Aubrey: Okay. So, this is the informed consent part. I was like, "I've got to tell Mike about this before we try anything." [laughs] 

Michael: I thought it was raw meat E. coli.

Aubrey: Me too. Me too. But here's where it comes in. So, I'm going to send you a quote from be Insider piece. 

Michael: It says, "Alvarado said that rather than throughout the batch, Bacon initially tried to save it. Someone told her that we could freeze it for six months and that kills the E. coli, Alvarado said. We literally sent, I don't know how many pallets of this stuff to a cold storage unit, and we actually froze it for a couple months and then we brought it back to test it. And it still tested the same and she was so mad when we couldn't salvage it."

Aubrey: Right.

Michael: Okay. She tried to hedge and was like, "Okay, it's going to cost us a lot of money."

Aubrey: Fine. 

Michael: "So, let's do a little workaround," and then that didn't work, and she was mad.

Aubrey: So, that's not great. The thing that is not greater is that Manuel Alvarado and a number of former senior staff say that Moon Juice didn't test its ingredients at all until 2017.

Michael: The idea is, there could have been much wider contamination.

Aubrey: Right. Manuel Alvarado quote to Insider is, "We could easily have been selling E. coli infested pearl without even knowing it."

Michael: Oh, wow. 

Aubrey: Because they were operating for six years without testing anything that they got from their suppliers. 

Michael: Jesus Christ.

Aubrey: They were just like, "The suppliers test it." They say, "It's fine. We trust them. We move on." So, this was just after they started testing ingredients.

Michael: Oh, wow. And they found a batch fairly quickly. 

Aubrey: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Man, it's very easy to forget with these companies that like, "Yeah, they're selling a consumable product, which does require various quality assurance processes." What you're doing with all of this marketing of 'it's pure and it's from the Earth' and all this rhetoric that goes along with these kinds of companies, on top of all this marketing, there's a huge iceberg of work that they're doing underneath to find the right suppliers. But then, oftentimes with these companies, it turns out that it's just the carnival medicine show people that we talked about in the Snake Oil episode. It's just like, "You're just saying stuff. There's nothing underneath this."

Aubrey: I think the parallel between Amanda Chantal Bacon and a snake oil salesman is especially apt, because what she's doing is so fucking similar to what a bunch of those white supervisors were doing in the building of the railroad, which was watching a bunch of Chinese immigrants use a Chinese medicinal therapy, which was snake oil, which worked, and then they were just like, "Oh, man, all you got to do is boil a snake? I got snakes, man." "Well, it's mushrooms? All right, cool. I can find some mushrooms." She's straight up just yoinking a couple of things from there list of ingredients, basically, and then mashing it all up in a dust and being like, "Look, it's good for you. It's sort of Eastern, but you're buying it from me, a conventionally attractive thin white woman."

Michael: Yeah. Right. For $24 or whatever. 

Aubrey: Oh, my God, Mike, I would love for you to guess this before we get into taste test. The Full Moon is their sampler packet of Moon Dusts and there's two of each kind of Moon Dust. So, there are 14 little packets, 14 doses. So, you could do two weeks of Moon Dust every day. Would you like to guess how much the little box with 14 sachets costs?

Michael: Was it $40 or something absurd?

Aubrey: It was $35, Mike. You were so close. I love it.

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: So, Mike, we have one more update after this. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: But I thought right after the contamination update, it might be the highest stakes time to try a taste test. Do you want to try a taste test?

Michael: Right after I know I'm going to die.

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: What is our plan for doing this? Because how do you eating a fucking dust? What am I going to do?

Aubrey: [laughs] I don't either. I spent an inordinate amount of time on their website last night trying to figure out what their serving suggestions are and all that stuff. Here is a thing that makes me suspicious. There are two things that make me suspicious. Well, three things. The third thing is the name 'dust' makes me suspicious of the taste-- [laughs] 

Michael: Yeah, it's not going to be good.

Aubrey: The next thing that makes me suspicious is that many of their "recipes" for what to do with your dusts involve putting them in a blender with whatever drink, like, "Put your coffee in a blender and then put in the dust, and then blend it on high for three minutes, and then drink it." That makes me suspicious about texture. And the third thing is that when they give you their serving suggestions, they're not just like, "Mix it into some hot water with lemon or anything like that." It's all like, "Put it in a smoothie, or some espresso, or hot chocolate." They want you to put it with extremely, already flavorful beverages, which makes me suspicious. There are other ones that are like, "Just mix it with some hot water."

Michael: Well, let's do that one, because it will actually taste the dusts. 

Aubrey: I have a cup of coffee here and I also have some hot water. 

Michael: Wait, okay, I have some coffee leftover from this morning. I can also get some coffee. 

Aubrey: Perfect. Let's do it. Let's do Sex Dust as the one we try in hot water because that's the one I want-- [crosstalk] 

Michael: Okay. Yeah, I want to taste. I want to taste the Sex. 

Aubrey: Okay, go grab your coffee. 

Michael: Okay. Yes. 

Aubrey: Let me know when you're ready and I'll turn on my little electric kettle to heat up some water.

Michael: Wait, I'm heating up water. I'm boiling water. 

Aubrey: I think so. Yeah. 

Michael: Right. Coffee and boil water.

Aubrey: Thank you. 

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: All right. What do you think we should put in the coffee?

Michael: Okay. We got Brain, Dream, Power, Spirit, and Beauty. Maybe Dream because it'll counteract the coffee? 

Aubrey: Yeah, there you go. 

Michael: We have to take in the marketing here. So, mine says on the back, "Adaptogens for sleep*. Targets stress for relief of tension to promote deep tranquil rest*. Sweet and floral pairs well with tea, milk, and hot water blend one sachet per serving." Okay. And then, there's the most abysmally small font. "Please consult your healthcare provider [unintelligible [00:27:51]. Use [crosstalk] keep better, reaches out children." Okay, boilerplate and then it has the legend for the asterisk. "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Aubrey: There it is.

Michael: So, again, this is fake. [laughs] Enjoy. 

Aubrey: [laughs] Please enjoy. We don't intend to substantiate any of our claims.

Michael: Yeah. Nothing is real.

Aubrey: All right. Can we just-- Ooh. 

Michael: All right. 

Aubrey: All right. God, it smells like pepper. 

Michael: Oh, it does. It's nice. It's spicy. 

Aubrey: Oh, Mike. 

Michael: Yeah, it's going to taste fucking terrible coffee though.

Aubrey: It's Clump City over here. I don't know about you. 

Michael: Oh, yeah, mine's-- Yeah, mine's a [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: It's a little bit like when you're a kid and you're mixing up a packet of hot cocoa, and it develops those little balls of powder that are wet on the outside, but dry as a bone inside? That looks like what's happening. 

Michael: I put it in my coffee. It looks like chicken stock, basically, but that kind of color. 

Aubrey: [laughs] Bullion? Yeah. 

Michael: Yeah. And it's really not dissolving. It really doesn't dissolve. [laughs].

Aubrey: It doesn't want to dissolve. I have a lot of little specks on the inside of my coffee cup.

Michael: It looks [laughs] so gross, Aubrey. It looks like ashes.

Aubrey: It looks like sediment. 

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: Do you know what I mean? It looks like sediment at the bottom of a bottle of wine or something.

Michael: I'm questioning my commitment to Sparkle Motion. I don't know, if I can go through with this. 

Aubrey: Mike, listen. Let me just sweeten the pot for you. Don't forget, there might also be E. coli--


Michael: This might harm you physically.

Aubrey: Hey, man, cheer up. It might be terrible for you for days to come.

Michael: Aubrey, I'm scared. I don’t want to do this anymore.

Aubrey: [laughs] Listen, I genuinely don't want to make you do anything you're uncomfortable with doing. 

Michael: No, I'm not worried about E. coli. 

Aubrey: Okay.

Michael: I think it's really gross. 

Aubrey: I'm worried about tasting something really bad. That's my main worry here is just like, "This is going to taste bad." I'm also frankly a tiny bit worried that it's going to taste good and then I'm going to be like, "Goddamn it."

Michael: I know. And then 40 bucks every two weeks, then you're in.

Aubrey: [laughs] So, the next time you see me, I'll be wearing only white linen. 

Michael: I know. [laughs] 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: The show is different since you moved to Montecito. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: What's your dissolve situation? 

Aubrey: I think it has dissolved as much as it's going to, which is not much. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: Basically, the texture of the powder I would say is, part of it was a really fine powder and then there were chunks of something in it, like little dried leaves maybe or something. Those things have not dissolved, because they wouldn't. But the finer powder appears to have dissolved. But also, I feel there's a good chance that I get to the end of this cup of coffee and then there's just a thick sludge at the bottom-- [crosstalk] 

Michael: Yeah, I think that's what's happening, because I'm getting sludge. It's getting sludge on the bottom.

Aubrey: [laughs] All right, Mike. I feel you and I are now just vamping to avoid tasting this thing.

Michael: Yeah, I know. That's 100% what's happening. I know.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: All right, let's do it.

Aubrey: All right. You ready. 

Michael: All right. 

Aubrey: Three, two, one, Dream Dust. 

[take sips] 

Aubrey: Ugh.

Michael: Oh, it definitely tastes different.

Aubrey: It tastes really different. Part of it doesn't taste bad and then part of it tastes real bad. There's a sour element. 

Michael: Yeah, I know.

Aubrey: The way that it tastes to me is as if the milk in my latte has gone sour. 

Michael: It does. Yes. It tastes like that in mine, even though there's no milk in mine. Yeah, it's not immediately unpleasant. It's not like celery juice. God awful.

Aubrey: Yeah, it has a vaguely ghost of chocolate past kind of taste, like carob style dusty chocolate. But then, the finish is really sour.

Michael: It kind of tastes like a cleaning product smells.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: It has a weird floral thing.

Aubrey: I didn't think you were going to come up with sicker burns for the one that you kind of like than for celery juice. [laughs] Top note, dusty chocolate. Hot note-

Michael: Yeah, hot note.

Aubrey: -cinnamon and bass note, sour milk.

Michael: Okay, wait. Wait, wait. How much is each sachet? 

Aubrey: So, 35 bucks divided by 14. So, it's $250. 

Michael: Yeah, for $250 every day, I'm not doing this. That's almost what a cup of coffee costs.

Aubrey: Sometimes, you'll have a fucking diet bar or energy bar, one of the meal replacement things and you're like, "God, [crosstalk] why does anybody eat or drink this?"

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: I don't have that feeling about this. 

Michael: No.

Aubrey: But I do have the feeling of, "I won't be doing this again. Thanks."

Michael: No, absolutely not. No, I'm not going to finish it. My coffee is sitting there three quarters full. I'm going to be finishing it.

Aubrey: All right, are you ready to go in on Sex Dust? 

Aubrey: Let's do Sex Dust. Are we doing boiling water for this one?

Aubrey: I'm doing boiling water. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: I just heated up water while you were grabbing your coffee. 

Michael: Oh, I'll be right back.

Aubrey: Okay. Oh. Oh.

Michael: Oh, my God. Okay. 

Aubrey: Tell me.

Michael: I just poured the rest of the coffee down the sink and there was so much sludge in the glass, Aubrey. It was so much. It was just sand at the bottom.

Aubrey: I'll tell you what. I stayed recording while you were going to get your hot water and such. And while you did that, I poured my hot water over the little emptied-out sachet of Sex Dust. I did not intend to get a first impression, but I absolutely did, which was just a wave of smell, the smell of the hot water Sex Dust.

Michael: Wait, I got it now. Oh, fuck. 

Aubrey: [laughs]

Michael: Ugh, wait, what is this shit? We didn't even read the back of the label. 

Aubrey: Yeah, we didn't even read the description. So, let's read the description, because it's going to sound nicer than how I feel about the smell.

Michael: You read this one, because mine's all torn up.

Aubrey: Oh, God, it really smells.

Michael: It reeks, Aubrey. It's so bad. 

Aubrey: It smells extremely much like a porta potty. It really--

Michael: Shocking.

Aubrey: There is an old pee smell. 

Michael: It smells like a fraternity. 

Aubrey: Old pee in the summer.

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: This one says-

Michael: This one's going to be rough.

Aubrey: "Target stress to support healthy hormonal balance, igniting creative energy in and out of the bedroom*. A smoky cacao flavor pairs well with coffee, chocolate, tea, and milk or add to any smoothie." So, the last one, Dream Dust was like, "Hey, you could put this in hot water." And I buy that. This one is specifically like-

Michael: This one. 

Aubrey: -try not to taste it, [laughs] it really feels like the serving recommendation here.

Michael: It is like bad sex and then it's just something you never want to think about again and you want to cover it with something else.

Aubrey: Oh, God, Mike, I don't want to drink this. [laughs] 

Michael: Okay. We both put this in bright, clean, clear water and it nearly turned fucking brown. It's the thickest brown color now. It looks like coffee. It looks terrible. 

Aubrey: Can we go cameras on for one second? 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Here's my situation. 

Michael: Yeah, that's what I'm. 

Aubrey: What? Looks not good, Mike.

Michael: The combination of the color and the smell, Aubrey, that's what's doing it. [laughs] Combination. 

Aubrey: It is the smell of a parking garage stairwell in a major US city on the hottest day of the year.

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: That's the smell. [laughs] Oh, no, Michael. All right, are we doing it? 

Michael: I hate the show. I hate it. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: I hate this show. Why do we do this? [laughs] 

Aubrey: I told us to do this. And I'm filled with the most profound dread I have felt in a very long time.

Michael: Okay, let's do it. All right. 

Aubrey: Okay. 

Michael: Three, two, one, go. 


Michael: Ooh, ooh.

Aubrey: It's not good.

Michael: Oh, the aftertaste. Oh, the aftertaste. Oh, it's getting worse.

Aubrey: The hot note for this one is, I would say, swamp water.

Michael: Yeah. The nice thing is it tastes diluted. It tastes really diluted like Nescafe or something. That's a watery taste. But then, it also just has an old sock kind of feel.

Aubrey: It's totally old sock. Oh, no, it's old sock.

Michael: And then, the aftertaste is just-- I would like to go back to the sour.

Aubrey: I will say this. The taste is bad. I think the smell is worse. 

Michael: Yeah, I think so too. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Aubrey: Totally.

Michael: That's the advertising copy they're going to put on their website. The smell is worse than it tastes. 


Aubrey: And it's just you and me giving the thumbs up like-- [crosstalk] 

Michael: That's Maintenance Phase endorsement right there. 

Aubrey: This is one of the ones, where they pick like a critics quote for a movie and it's like seven ellipses.

Michael: I used to work for a book publisher and a reviewer once called one of our books, "lavishly illustrated and utterly unreadable." And on the book, we put "lavishly illustrated."


Aubrey: All right, I got to get this taste out of my mouth. That was terrible. I'm going cameras back off, yeah?

Michael: Cameras off, let's drink something normal. We should do at least one more. Which one do we think is going to taste--? [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: Do you want to do a third Moon Dust? 

Michael: Yeah. I feel we have to give Moon Juice a chance to redeem itself.

Aubrey: Okay. So, the remaining ones that we have our Spirit Dust, Beauty Dust, Brain Dust, and Power Dust. Brain Dust is described as malty and bitter.

Michael: Great.

Aubrey: Power Dust is described as earthy and bright.

Michael: Okay, that's in the running.

Aubrey: Beauty Dust is described as a tart berry flavor. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: And Spirit Dust is described as sweet and nutty.

Michael: Which one do you prefer? 

Aubrey: I would go Beauty Dust or Spirit Dust.

Michael: Okay. So, we've got tart berry or sweet and nutty. I say tart berry. That's the highest likelihood of success.

Aubrey: Let's do it. Beauty Dust.

Michael: Okay, number three.

Aubrey: I am pouring the water over the Beauty Dust is what I'm doing right now.

Michael: Okay. So, mine is semi-dissolved and it's a lighter shade of brown than the Sex Dust.

Aubrey: Yeah, it's sort of a cognac. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Wow. There are serious chunks happening. 

Michael: Oh, yeah. 

Aubrey: Oh, God. Okay. This one says, "Adaptogens for skin. Target stress and accelerated aging. Improve skin clarity and help protect from free radicals. A tart berry flavor pairs well with matcha, water, and lemonade or add to any smoothie."

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: So, we're about to get glowing skin. 

Michael: Okay. Glowy skin. All right. 

Aubrey: It smells like tea. 

Michael: It does smell more floral, but also, a charcoal, like a burnt floral.

Aubrey: Yes. And it's like musty.

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: You know what it has? It has the smell of an antique store.

Michael: Yeah, I was going to say flowers that had been left in a funeral home for a while. Like that draftiness, the chill.

Aubrey: Draftiness, chill, musty.

Michael: All right. We have to stir it up and then immediately drink it, so we get as much sediment as possible. We want the full experience. 

Aubrey: Yeah. You can really see the sediment through gathering in the bottom immediately. You got to stir this one pretty constantly.

Michael: All right. On three, two, one, we'll stop stirring and immediately drink, all right?

Aubrey: Okay. Three, two, one, Beauty Dust. 

[take sips]

Michael: Oh, fuck. Oh, that's--

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: That's the worst one. Holy shit.

Aubrey: Oh, oh, the aftertaste is rough. 

Michael: Oh, it's so bitter. Oh, my God. Oh, it's like sand in my throat. 


Michael: It's like living through the eruption of Mount St. Helens. They're just little particles in my throat. 

Aubrey: Wow.

Michael: I agree, that snuck up on me. Yeah.

Aubrey: There's a moment when I'm like, "Oh, it's like you mixed potpourri with hot water," and then it takes a real wild turn."

Michael: Oh. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Did you take it another sample? 

Michael: Yeah, I don't know what-- [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: I keep doing that to give it a fair shake. I took three sips of our first two. Why did I do that? 

Michael: Yeah, the sediment in my throat is foul. 

Aubrey: It just separates instantaneously too.

Michael: It reminds me of as a kid, you'd struggle to understand that smells and tastes are not necessarily the same thing. So, I remember there was a vanilla-scented shampoo in our house. 

Aubrey: Oh, no, did you eat shampoo?

Michael: I was eight years old, and I didn't fully understand that concept, where my parents told me that. They're like, "Don't drink it, because it doesn't taste how it smells." I was like, "That's fake." [crosstalk] future podcaster and then yeah, I fucking drank. But it was so gross. I just puked all over the bathroom immediately. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Oh, my God.

Michael: But this has the same feel where the smell is floral, whatever, but then the taste is just totally different and just like a chimney. Ugh.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Oh, and now, I just have little bits in my mouth forever. 

Aubrey: Goddamn it.

Michael: But at least, it cost more than a cup of coffee to have this experience. [laughs] 

Aubrey: On the bright side--

Michael: At least, you're paying a huge premium for this. [laughs] 

Aubrey: It's expensive and it might give you E coli. 


Aubrey: So, I would say my least bad was Dream Dust, but that was also the one we mixed into coffee. So, that might not be fair.

Michael: Yeah, I feel they got worse as they went along.

Aubrey: I would switch for me, Beauty Dust was my second worst and Sex Dust was my worst-worst. The level of evocativeness of the smell--

Michael: I know.

Aubrey: -of Sex Dust--

Michael: It's really unreal.

Aubrey: I am very glad to be burning a scented candle right now, because I just want that covered up like yesterday. Thanks. 

Michael: I'm going to have to make a frozen pizza after this to get-- [crosstalk] 

Aubrey: [laughs] Okay, okay. So, we have one more set of updates on Moon Juice. And this is where I think it gets worse. 

Michael: Okay.

Aubrey: In the summer of 2020, Moon Juice did what a lot of corporations did in response to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent uprisings.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: They posted a black square with a corporate statement in it about holding themselves accountable and blah, blah, blah. So, I just sent you the link to their statement.

Michael: Oh, no. We're back in tone-deaf, corporate summer of 2020 statements.

Aubrey: Well, just what do you think a company run by Amanda Chantal Bacon has to say about race?

Michael: Okay. It's the black square and then in white text, it says, "Black Lives Matter. Our eyes are open. We take responsibility for helping to build an industry that is painfully in need of diversity and inclusion. We are holding ourselves accountable by bringing in an equity consultant and scheduling anti-racism workshops. On this platform, we are making space for meaningful information in solidarity. We are putting our energy into marching, donating, calling, writing, and unlearning." And then, the comments.

Aubrey: The first listed comment on this post on my end is, "Where's your apology to all the former black and POC employees who Moon Juice management and culture has harmed during their employment?"

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: Again, this post goes up current and former BIPOC staff, a record scratch, excuse me, they started collaborating on a Google Doc of the many, many experiences of racism that they had had while working for Moon Juice. One black employee, who was the only black employee at one of their stores, said that the regional manager who was white regularly asked her to do her hair differently.

Michael: Oh.

Aubrey: Similarly, at one point, Moon Juice runs a booth at the Echo Park Craft Fair in LA. And at the end of the fair, it started to rain and two of the black employees who were working with a fair covered their hair. And according to the Insider piece, "The same regional manager, who was their direct boss laughed and said, "Black girl and your hair."'

Michael: Okay. 

Aubrey: Right. So, they couldn't report this regional manager to anyone because Moon Juice does not have HR. 

Michael: Oh, what? 

Aubrey: Yep. 

Michael: What? 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: I have some suggestions on how to hold themselves accountable. [laughs] 

Aubrey: Genuinely. From that, which is not great to real gross, which is another black employee was asked to participate in a marketing photoshoot. She worked in one of the stores and for that two-day photo shoot, she was paid her usual hourly wage. 

Michael: Oh. Yeah, that's really bad. 

Aubrey: Afterward, she found out that the other models, none of whom were store employees and all of whom were white, were paid with a $1,000 Moon Juice gift card.

Michael: Okay. And also, that's pretty exploitative. But yes. [laughs] 

Aubrey: It's shitty. It's shitty for everyone, but also, somebody got the equivalent of $1,000 and somebody got the equivalent of $100 and that's fucked, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: So, here is the quote from this employee. Imana is her name. 

Michael: It says, when she asked her manager and other members of leadership why she didn't receive a gift card, she said, "She was reminded that she got a discount at the store." "This isn't about whether or not I get a discount," Imana said. "This is about, I got paid $100 for this campaign that's going to be everywhere." Yeah, you're doing modeling work for a company that is promoting itself and making a shitload of money. You are entitled to modeling ass wages.

Aubrey: Yes, which also should not be $1,000 gift card to Moon Juice, or three frozen pizzas.

Michael: [laughs] It's double bad for Moon Juice to do this, because if you work at Target or something and they give you a gift card, it means you can buy groceries with it, presumably. It's also bad for them to do it. But at Moon Juice, what are you even going to fucking buy with your $1,000? It's a bunch of dumb mushroom powders and shit.

Aubrey: Pay people in actual money. Not a fucking IOU for dust. Future dust. Oh, enjoy. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: That's not great. Here's what's fucking worse. Two weeks after the shoot, Imana was fired. 

Michael: Oh, what? 

Aubrey: Yeah, she did this photoshoot. The photos, by the way, ended up being used on fucking Sephora's website. 

Michael: Oh, my God.

Aubrey: She was like, "Hey, why didn't I get paid the same as everybody else?" And two weeks later, she got fired. 

Michael: That's extremely bad.

Aubrey: Imana's direct manager said that she was pressured by higher up managers to fire Imana.

Michael: What? That sounds like a big story. 

Aubrey: There may be more to this story. Moon Juice isn't fucking telling it and it looks terrible to me.

Michael: I also think on a very basic level in their post, when they say that we're holding ourselves accountable by bringing in an equity consultant.

Aubrey: Goddamn it.

Michael: That's also a red flag. 

Aubrey: That's the most bargain basement bullshit.

Michael: Companies don't do corporate trainings because they want to change something. Companies do corporate trainings because they want to protect themselves from liability in case of losses.

Aubrey: Well, and there has been much, much discussion out in the world and criticism rightly so of diversity director kind of model, where companies will hire someone internally whose job it is to do all of the thinking about race, and gender, and all of that stuff. And this isn't even that. This isn't even a tokenism approach. This is, "We're going to temporarily hire someone who does not work for the company for a half day gig of given a workshop probably over Zoom."

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: They do talk in the Insider piece about like, "It was real fucking awkward, because they didn't tear it out by management levels at all." So, store employees were on and so was Amanda Chantal Bacon. So, no one was saying shit, fuck all anything.

Michael: Oh, that's a terrible idea. So, you're in there with your boss.

Aubrey: A bunch of people were just like, "It was really fucking weird. It was really awkward. Nobody said anything and then we never talked about it again." And I was like, "Boy, again, nonprofit world."

Michael: Yeah, that's a another one. Yeah. 

Aubrey: On top of all of that, there are just so many more stories of really explicit racism in Moon Juice stores and at Moon Juice corporate. The manager of the Silver Lake store, according to this Insider piece, "would often mock the accents of customers," she said were from Saudi Arabia." Also, in the Silver Lake Store, there was a story in which two customers of color walked in and a white employee started burning palo santo in their faces. And when they asked her, why she was doing that, she said, she "didn't like their vibes." Both of those instances from the Silver Lake Store were reported. But because Moon Juice doesn't have HR, would you like to guess who investigated those claims? 

Michael: Oh, is it Amanda? 

Aubrey: No, it's the white regional manager, who said a bunch of racist shit. 

Michael: Oh, okay. There's no real process.

Aubrey: Yep. And I'm going to send you the concluding quote about this chapter from the Insider piece.

Michael: It says, "After concluding our investigation, we were not able to substantiate your allegations," the regional retail manager who left Moon Juice in early 2019 wrote in an email viewed by Insider. The Silver Lake store manager who was later promoted."

Aubrey: The person who was making fun of people's accents was first investigated and then promoted.

Michael: So, basically, this company just has no actual control systems in place for this stuff.

Aubrey: No. Again, that's the part that feels so nonprofity to me. 

Michael: Oh, my God, I know. God. Yeah. 

Aubrey: Everything is scrappy, which means it's shitty. 

Michael: Right. And nothing is written down, nothing is formalized. There's no formal grievance mechanism. 

Aubrey: No policies. 

Michael: When I used to work in corporate human rights violations, we would consult with companies on how to avoid human rights violations in their operation. The first sign of wanting to avoid human rights violations, because some companies do and some companies don't, is you need to have extremely basic systems in place of just like, "How does an employee file a complaint? Who looks at the complaint? Who investigates the complaint?" Because, yeah, in a big company, you're going to get a racist employee sometimes, right? That's not really the issue. The issue is what happens when that racist employee is discovered. How do workers who are not white people tell management about it? How does management respond? It's all this structural stuff that is so one-on-one to have in place, if you take these issues remotely, seriously. 

Aubrey: Yeah. And there is a genuine tricky fucking thing that happens in nonprofits, which is, look, man, you got to have an employee handbook. You got to have a Board of Directors that understands the employee handbook and understands their role, not only as fiduciaries, but also as accountability to an executive director. You got to have all of these things in place that absolutely no funder will fund you to do. 

Michael: I know. My God, Jesus. I know.

Aubrey: Like, "Hey, man, get your HR stuff set up." 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: "Hey, why don't you focus on staff retention and leadership development?"

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: "Hey, why don't you built a pipeline of staff, so that there were more opportunities for advancement and so that you are getting more different kinds of people in management than just whites cis people who are middle class?"

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: Nonprofits are shitty for not doing it and also, philanthropy is shitty for not fucking funding that. It's layered. It's a perfect storm of bad stuff.

Michael: Also, I'm much more forgiving of this stuff at NGOs, because the idea is the money should go to the mission. There's just so little money in NGOs. And so, you do skip this stuff. Whereas at Moon Juice, this is a company that's charging $35 for 14 teaspoons of bullshit.

Aubrey: Yes.

Michael: [laughs] In NGO, sometimes, literally, we physically do not have the money. And yeah, funders don't fund this stuff. At Moon Juice, it's like, "Well, what's your excuse?"

Aubrey: Right. We know that Amanda Chantal Bacon is making enough money to fucking live in Montecito.

Michael: I know.

Aubrey: The ingredients are not being produced the way that they're saying they're being produced.

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: Oops, they got a bunch of racism and major internal management issues, specifically around racism. "But hey, guys, it's okay. We got you a frozen pizza from [unintelligible 00:53:38]."

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Oh. 

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]