LaCroix Me a River
It was during the Fall semester of my senior year at Miami University in Ohio when I was first introduced to what would eventually become one of my favorite beverages. My friend and housemate Alex was a long-time fan of the stuff and came home with at least a 12-pack after every grocery run, eager to share with the rest of the house. “Isn’t it SO good!?” Alex implored after giving me a slurp of her flavor du jour, her eyes wide with excitement. Addicted to Diet Coke as I was back then, LaCroix did not immediately strike my fancy. “Aren’t they GREAT?” she’d ask again.
But wasn’t sold.
Although I did regularly dabble in a shitty vodka soda during those four alarming years of my life, my appetite for soda water — much less essenced soda water — had not yet hit its stride. It was the bubbles of Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper, and of course Diet Coke that had me hooked. Shortly after I graduated however, I decided to nix the soda pop altogether, and completely swore off those Diet and Zero drinks. But the need for bubbles persisted.
As a kid, “water with gas” as they call it in Europe, to me tasted...sour. Like the Warhead version of water, it was all I could do to avoid puckering my lips, scrunching my nose, and preventing a tear or two from drizzling down my cheek. But as a newly-minted adult with 21 years of life under my belt, a Bachelor’s degree in my hand, and Barack Obama in the Oval Office, I sensed a change. Maybe I could take a chance on bubbly water once more. Turns out, my taste buds had matured right alongside me: I liked it. And during that first post-graduate summer, I became obsessed.
It’s been seven years now since I began regularly drinking LaCroix, and it’s been seven years of bubbly bliss. That’s seven whole years of packing a colorful can in my lunchbox to enjoy alongside my sandwich or salad; seven whole years of cracking open a cold one while sitting poolside in my own lagoon of sweat; and seven whole years of regularly satiating my unending need for ice-cold, lightly-flavored bubbles without any added sugar and chemicals.
But apparently — heartbreakingly — seven years may be close to all I’ll get.
Just over a month ago, Bloomberg published an article claiming that LaCroix, owned by National Beverage Corp, was in the middle of a “free fall” that would not likely be receiving a parachute. Furthermore, the site claimed that LaCroix has actually been “losing their fizz” for quite some time now. When my captivation with the drink began back in 2012, the midwestern-based beverage company was making a big splash in the market as the new (yet old), hot (yet cold) sparkling water brand...but that all came to a head three years ago. According to CNBC, in mid-June of this year, “LaCroix fell to their lowest price since 2016, following news of a lawsuit alleging its president considered falsely claiming its drink containers were free of [BPA].” It was because of the lawsuit that the stock initially began to plummet, and unfortunately the brand never found a strategic means of recovering. Thus, the fall has continued. And last month, it [almost] hit rock bottom.
Upon hearing the news of LaCroix’s current dismal stock market status, I was both sad and angry: sad over the possibility of forever losing one of my all-time favorite sips, and angry at National Beverage (who purchased the company back in 1996!) for their lack of revolutionizing the brand to save it from its imminent demise.
As far as we know, when LaCroix started out they didn’t do so with intentions of becoming the next big pop-culture phenomenon; and from what we can guess, National Beverage didn’t have aspirations to make it potentially the most popular non-alcoholic beverage of this generation. But the fact of the matter is: somehow it did!
So what now?
Born in the 1980’s, LaCroix’s initial goal was to provide a cheaper, more approachable sparkling water alternative to the European-leaning brands like Perrier and San Pellegrino. (And although the name sure looks French to most — like it should be pronounced “la-kwah” — the fact of the matter is that the name comes from the St. Croix River that runs through La Crosse, Wisconsin, the town where the brand was born. So, St. Croy + La Crosse = LaCroix. And for the record, it’s pronounced “la-croy.”)
As the brand made its way into the 90’s and diet culture proliferated even more than it did the decade before, LaCroix’s popularity across the Midwest grew; affection for the canned libations extended from coast to coast. Women particularly became fans of this alternative to otherwise sugary sodas, and even kids enjoyed the fizz and hint of fruity flavor. But while the retro, 80’s-style logo became ironically hip during the 2000-teens, and as the ubiquitous flavors were joined by a handful of recent additions (hellooooo key lime!), overall LaCroix’s brand has remained relatively stagnant. In the same Bloomberg article, analyst Laurent Gandet cited, “The lack of meaningful innovation to offset core declines and bring new news to consumers” as one of National Beverage’s main downfalls.
So while LaCroix sat and watched as Instagram influencers and celebrities promoted their brand with vim and vigor, they did nothing to capitalize on their newfound fame and “coolness.” Other brands however, did take notice.
Old faithfuls like Perier and San Pellegrino spotted LaCroix’s bump in popularity and began adding essence (aka flavoring) to their formerly flavorless liquids. Bottled-water brand Dasani got in on the trend, adding both bubbles and fruit to their product line, and selling distinct offerings such as Black Cherry, Strawberry Guava, and Raspberry Lemonade. And who could have missed those bright and bold Bubly cans that made a splash with their eye-popping branding and fool-proof name? Heck, even Topo Chico — a brand that was established in 1895!! — hopped aboard the flavor train, adding a twist of lime and grapefruit to their coveted, extra-bubbly bubbles.
The sparkling water fad is obviously here to stay...but the question remains: will LaCroix remain a part of it? The loss of such a legendary brand — which, in reality is just one in a sea of what seems like zillions — won’t leave a huge gap in the sparkling water market, but it will certainly leave a hole in my heart and the hearts of many.
I can’t say for certain what will happen to LaCroix in the future, but I can tell you that I’m keeping a hard eye on FIZZ...and planning to start stockpiling my basement ASAP.
You were my sun, you were my earth.
But you didn't know all the ways I loved you, no.
So you took a chance, made [no] other plans
But I bet you didn't think that [you] would come crashing down, no...
LaCroix me a river.
LaCroix me a river.
LaCroix me a river.