Mon, Jul 11 2016
For the first few decades that LaCroix sparkling water existed, the Midwestern moms who drank it had it all to themselves.
Long before the girls wearing "LaCroixs Over Boys" T-shirts this summer were even born, LaCroix was beloved by health-conscious, budget-wise women in middle America. They knew a good thing when they found it, and they were a loyal audience. But most trends trickle inward from the coasts to the Midwest, not the other way around, and so LaCroix's first 30 years were spent under the radar.
Then sometime in 2015, LaCroix — lightly flavoured, sugar-free carbonated water wrapped in a garish can — became an unlikely breakout hit. The New York Times published an essay raving about it. The Awl and Time Out New York ranked its flavours. If you say "LaCroix" to a youngish urban professional, be ready for a possible explosion of enthusiasm, as if you'd shaken up a can of carbonated water.
"I always say if I could ever have a fridge where all I had to do was fill it with my favourite beverage, it would be lime LaCroix," said Samantha Weiss-Hills, partnerships editor at the food website Food52. When Weiss-Hills's co-workers sampled 17 different water brands for a taste test, they challenged her to pick LaCroix out of the lineup — and she did.
Weiss-Hills describes her relationship with the water as "kind of an addiction," and she's not the only one. National Beverage, the company that makes LaCroix, has seen its stock soar. You can buy needlepoint depicting its neon cans. On Instagram, the word "obsessed" turns up again and again.
I remember LaCroix from my Kansas City childhood as the pastel cases of tasteless soda that my Girl Scout leader packed into her minivan for a weekend trip in the 1990s. A decade later, when I worked at a summer camp in a small northern Minnesota town, it was a rare treat we could easily find at the local Walmart.
So a few months ago, when friends and co-workers started enthusing about LaCroix and its cans appeared, to great fanfare, in our work refrigerator, I was baffled: Who turned this humble Midwestern seltzer into a status symbol?
I started playing hashtag archaeologist, sifting through thousands of #LiveLaCroix Instagrams. Somewhere, I was certain, there was a patient zero, a super-influencer who singlehandedly revived LaCroix, making its pastel cases proliferate at Whole Foods, in my sister's kitchen, even on my own desk.
But I was thinking about it backward. It turns out LaCroix isn't everywhere because it was trendy. LaCroix became trendy because it was easy for it to be everywhere.
Over the past decade, Americans have done something that would have once seemed downright un-American: They've given up soda. And when you’re craving a can of pop, LaCroix is a decent substitute. Unlike tap water, it has carbonation and a little flavour. Unlike a countertop SodaStream, it's cheap, readily available, and portable. Close your eyes, wrap your hand around the perspiring aluminium can, and you could be holding a Coca-Cola. LaCroix is succeeding as methadone for the soda addict.
LaCroix isn’t the only brand to benefit from the sparkling water boom. But it’s the one that’s risen to the coveted status of lifestyle brand, not just generating loyalty but becoming part of how we define ourselves. The secret behind LaCroix’s rise is a mix of old-fashioned business strategy and cutting-edge social marketing. When Americans wanted carbonated water, LaCroix was positioned to give them them fizzy water. Then, sometimes by accident, LaCroix developed fans among mommy bloggers, Paleo eaters, and Los Angeles writers who together pushed LaCroix into the zeitgeist...
Author: Libby Nelson, Vox