Remember a year or so ago when everyone was talking about La Croix sparkling water as if it was some amazing new beverage? What began as a Midwestern attempt at something the Northeast has long mastered was suddenly available in every bodega. Endless articles were written about how La Croix was the hot drink du jour—and, indeed, it was only du jour. Sales of National Beverage Corp are reportedly in a “free fall,” writes Bloomberg.
As a result, analysts are downgrading the company’s stock. One note from Guggenheim says bluntly that “it’s unlikely that LaCroix can recover to any meaningful degree while in the hands of National Beverage.” The stock, meanwhile, has hit a year low of $46.20, compared to its 52-week high of $172.32. Things look pretty bleak for the seltzer company; the note explains that seltzer competition is only increasing, and National Beverage–and by extension La Croix–hasn’t innovated to stay ahead of the pack.
Are we surprised? Despite the fawning press, La Croix was not some miracle drink. Its fizz experience is always so odd–flatter than a crisp supermarket seltzer, less smooth than natural sparkling choices like, say, San Pellegrino. It tastes like it was left open for an hour. Fans often mention the interesting flavors (the company called grapefruit “pamplemousse,” even though its name was pronounced “la-croy”), but other companies had similar, often more interesting, offerings.
La Croix was essentially an experiment in hipster design. It had an aesthetic that appealed to large masses of people who believed they were part of a fringe group. They didn’t care that the drink wasn’t that good. They liked that they had an interesting preference.
Meanwhile, there have always been better alternatives. If you want a really refreshing seltzer, go buy Schweppes! Or! If you want the beverage experience La Croix tried to imitate, just get a Polar! Bubbly water has been around for eons, and there are myriad types to enjoy it; La Croix’s biggest sin is that it tried to mix it all together. It was only a matter of time before people got brand fatigue.
According to this latest report, the stock drop could make an acquisition more likely. The question remains: Will a new owner make a better drink? That’s certainly something to ponder as I drink my Canada Dry.