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How LaCroix Beat Coke and Pepsi in the Sparkling Water Wars

The generic-looking brand has found a loyal following—particularly on Instagram.
LaCroix sparkling water

LaCroix sparkling water

Photographer : Brittany Greeson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When big brands such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé started introducing their own lines of lightly flavored sparkling water two years ago, the plan was to capitalize on increasing demand for carbonated drinks without calories or chemicals. The sparkling water segment was expanding, so it should've been an easy win. But there was one problem: Everyone was already drinking LaCroix.   

The generic-looking brand of sparkling water has found a loyal following among young, health-conscious consumers. Comedian Joe Mande of the sitcom Parks and Recreation started a Twitter campaign trumpeting the wonders of LaCroix in hopes of getting the company to make him an official sponsor (they didn’t—and things got weird). In March, the New York Times Magazine published a love letter to the drink. In July, Gizmodo featured it in a series of cocktail recipes, complete with LaCroix illustrations by an artist in Portland, Ore. LaCroix sales since last year have increased 45 percent, to an estimated $120 million—not including sales at independent stores, says Jeffrey Klineman, editor-in-chief of BevNet, a publication that covers the beverage industry. LaCroix’s true sales are closer to $175 million, Klineman says. On Instagram, fans of the drink are posting pictures of their refrigerators packed with cans of LaCroix and such captions as, “At what point do you admit you have a problem?”