La Croix: Antidote or Poison?

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Tula H., Junior

Let’s face it. You probably know someone who only drinks La Croix. Maybe you’ve seen them opening a can covertly in class, or gushing over their favorite flavor, pamplemousse, which means “grapefruit” in French (if they haven’t already told you). They aren’t alone in their obsession—thanks to the recent popularity of the sparkling water brand La Croix, millions now drink the beverage religiously. The product, pronounced la-croy, has gained a massive following in the past year, mainly through social media sponsorships. The colorful cans have become accessories in hundreds of thousands of posts on Instagram, Snapchat, and other online platforms. Grocery stores cover entire walls in elaborate displays of La Croix twelve-packs. The crazy part? The La Croix craze hasn’t died down. Unlike disappearing fads such as fidget spinners and frozen yogurt, La Croix has embedded itself into its consumer’s routines. The addiction has even become multigenerational—families that used to prefer other brands of curated water are now opting for La Croix to quench their thirst.

How does a mass-obsession like this happen? Michael Tommsaielo, an influencer from New York City, spoke about promoting the water brand: “It’s not like a clothing brand that you can be like ‘oh the quality is bad’ or ‘the materials are cheap,’ water is water, and as long as they [La Croix] can get people to believe theirs is a luxury, people will pay.” Michael knows what he’s talking about. With something as ambiguous as flavored water, people are unable to determine the quality of what they are consuming. La Croix lists its two ingredients as “water” and “natural flavor,” the latter of which is extremely vague.

It is also, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against National Beverage (the company that owns La Croix), false. The claims against La Croix state that the drink is secretly made with artificial ingredients, “including linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide.” This accusation was quickly picked up by major news outlets last October, which resulted in a general online panic in the following days. Though the alarm soon died down, many people still shudder at the mention of La Croix, keen on avoiding a possible poison.

However, this lawsuit’s claims are far from accurate—while linalool is an artificial ingredient, it is also found, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program, in 63 different spices. It is a harmless flavoring agent used in many foods and beverages—chances are you have consumed linalool this week! Furthermore, linalool is a component of most essential oils, which are rumored to be the source of La Croix’s “natural flavor.”

And so, the story unravels. The “cockroach killer” headline was just a fear-mongering technique used by the plaintiff to help the lawsuit gain publicity and shift public opinion against La Croix. With the nasty headline gone, this purely becomes a debate of La Croix’s truthfulness: linalool, however harmless it may be, is still synthetic. National Beverage has responded to the suit with a statement denying any artificiality—the company assures customers that La Croix is “derived from the natural essence oils from the named fruit used in each of the flavors.” Additionally, it has not been proven that the drink even contains linalool. With neither side of the suit budging, this dispute may never be publicly resolved—what you don’t need to worry about is accidentally drinking insecticide.

It’s also important to note the amount of racket these allegations caused. A few years ago, this suit would have had minimal, if any, publicity—no one knew or cared about La Croix. It’s the nature of a fad that makes the accusations shocking. Though La Croix is (gasp) a normal product, its sudden rise to fame has given it a superior status to the menagerie of available sparkling beverages. While backed by no evidence, this strange effect of a trend captivates millions of customers, pushing them to believe in not just the power of La Croix, but the power of whatever is marketed towards their communities.