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The LaCroix brand of fizzy water came seemingly out of nowhere in the last few years, propelling its parent company to nearly $1bn in annual sales and tripling its profits to $149.8m since 2015.
So perhaps it’s natural that the brand would attract hassles, the way noisy parties attract complaints from the neighbors, followed by a knock on the door from the cops. In this world, there’s no gain without pain.
National Beverage Corp., the owner of LaCroix, got a knock on the door from the Securities and Exchange Commission in June, asking about some of its sales metrics. But a more interesting challenge came on Oct. 1 from a Chicago law firm alleging in a lawsuit that the brand’s claim to be “all natural” is bogus — that in fact its flavored seltzers are chock full of “chemical compounds that have been adjudged synthetic and/or artificial by the Food and Drug Administration.” One ingredient, linalool, is “used as a cockroach insecticide,” the lawsuit says.
Even when substances occur naturally that doesn’t mean they’re safe.
This is a horror for consumers, the lawsuit implies, since so many have been guzzling down LaCroix water with the misconception that it’s as pure as, well, nature. The plaintiff lawyers are seeking class-action certification.
Here’s what the lawsuit really tells us: One, you can get the clerks at a courthouse — in this case, Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois — to swallow anything and accept it as a legitimate claim. Two, you can scare the public into shunning a product with utterly bogus but scientific-sounding allegations (or at least try to). And three, that Americans’ love for anything marketed as “natural” makes them vulnerable to fact-free marketing pitches.
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