Every family has some hallmark food or beverage that is constantly in stock in their fridge or pantry. Maybe it’s a brand of chip, or a specific soda. My family’s is LaCroix, so I decided to dive deep and see if the beverage actually deserves its place in our fridge.
Products like LaCroix are made of very few ingredients, meaning that their sustainability is determined by how those ingredients are sourced and packaged, as well as the labor standards involved. LaCroix fails to properly address these issues, making it difficult to call them sustainable. Overall, I rate LaCroix a 1.25. LaCroix is made of sustainable materials, but the production processes and employee relations fall flat. In a two-ingredient beverage such as LaCroix, the sustainability in production is more impactful than the sustainability of the product. That being said, by examining and improving their production processes, LaCroix has the potential to become a more prominent and sustainable brand.
LaCroix is an aggressively simple product: sparkling water. The only ingredients are carbonated water and natural essence. But the phrase “natural essence” has caused the brand more drama than expected—in 2018 a lawsuit was filed against the company claiming that their “all natural” marketing was fraudulent. The case argued that laboratory testing proved LaCroix contained a cockroach insecticide called linalool, but was dropped in early 2020 after third party testing confirmed that there were no synthetic chemicals in the beverage. Linalool can be produced naturally, however, meaning it could still be present in the beverage. Nevertheless, linalool is FDA approved as being non-toxic to humans and animals, so I don’t think it’s actually a problem if the chemical is found in the beverage’s essences, assuming that it was naturally produced. LaCroix claims that their natural essences are made by heating fruits and capturing resulting vapor, which would mean that all of the essences in each beverage should be directly produced from fruit.
Looking beyond LaCroix’s legal complications, it seems reasonable to think that carbonated beverages might actually be releasing carbon dioxide. I found that they do emit carbon, but carbonated beverages themselves account for .0001% of the US’ annual emissions. The biggest potential culprit is a drink’s packaging. LaCroix is packaged in a recyclable aluminum can, and is made of an average of 73% recycled materials.
Overall, I rate this section a 2. There really isn’t much wrong with LaCroix’s ingredients, even with their lawsuit controversy. Plenty of competing sparkling waters are packaged in petroleum-based plastics or heavy glass bottles, which are more carbon-intensive to produce or transport. All LaCroix could really do to improve is increase the amount of recycled materials in their cans!
Despite discussing sustainability claims on their website, LaCroix and their parent company National Beverage Corporation don’t provide much detail about how their products are actually made. What they do express is that all of their products are produced within the US, which is definitely a good thing to see that the company isn’t outsourcing to countries where they may be able to afford cheaper labor or fewer regulations. This means that LaCroix is conforming to all national regulations and creating jobs, while also lowering their carbon footprint by not having to ship their product across the world to reach their main market.
What LaCroix doesn’t address is where their production facilities are located, where they source their water from, how they manage waste and emissions in those facilities, and how they treat their employees or surrounding communities.
I’ll rate LaCroix a .75 for this category, because I’m glad to see that their locations are domestic and lowering transportation impacts, but they aren’t transparent enough to justify any higher a rating.
A similar issue to how its made, LaCroix does not directly address their employment practices. According to their parent company National Beverage, of the company’s 1550 employees only 360 have collective bargaining agreements. The details of these agreements and how they compare to the wages and benefits for the other 1200 employees are not stated. I also want to point out that their website claims they’ve created “thousands” of jobs, but they don’t have thousands of people employed, and their annual report did not address recently downsizing. While this is only one small word that may not have much significance, it does make me skeptical of what else they might be embellishing.
While National Beverage technically has a portfolio of other beverages, when you first like at their website it’s hard to differentiate it from LaCroix’s, as the sparkling water is by far their most popular product. Their second most notable brand is Faygo soda, which the company tries to advertise the least due its sugary, unhealthy composition. National Beverage tries to market themselves as a healthy option for people who want flavored drinks without all the sugars. Of all their brands, LaCroix certainly fits this description the best.
National Beverage boasts about their partnerships with hospitals and support towards cancer research, which is great. These efforts receive only two sentences throughout their entire website, and I would love to see more of how they have assisted in this research.
Overall, I rate this section a .25. They aren’t doing anything explicitly wrong, but there also isn’t much evidence that they’re doing anything right either.