Did the LaCroix Bubble Just Burst?
2016 has been the year of LaCroix, a trend that's even caught the eye of Wall Street investors. The year's fastest-growing sparking water brand has been LaCroix, and the 35-year-old beverage's newfound popularity has meant big bucks for its parent company National Beverage, which is now valued at $2 billion. But after several months of unbridled growth, the stock of LaCroix's parent company is plummeting. National Beverage, known by the ticker symbol FIZZ, has been called out in a report by activist short-seller Glaucus Research Group for possibly fizzing with the numbers. According to the firm's report, "Either FIZZ has revolutionized the beverage industry or its [sic] manipulating its financial statements to hide costs."
Yes, Glaucus calls FIZZ, "a faddish stock-market darling du jour, but records produced as part of recent litigation paint a darker picture and suggest, in our opinion, that FIZZ has achieved its remarkable history of financial performance in part by manipulating earnings." The firm cites examples of undisclosed stock gifts, a so-called "Ludicrous Corporate Governance Structure," and even a CEO who has admitted to cooking the books. There's also the fact that National Beverage's other brands, including Faygo, have been on the decline, even as LaCroix has been killing it. (There's only so much soda that any one Juggalo can bring to the Gathering, you know?)
This all sounds like bad news for seltzer lovers and those proud members of the cult of LaCroix, myself included, possibly marking the end of peak sparkling water—because how am I going to get my LaCroix fix if their parent company is shut down?
But this probably isn't the end of an era. Even if LaCroix were to go down in a burst of fizz (or FIZZ, as the case may be), it's likely that the brand could be acquired by another beverage company, especially since the report from Glaucus indicates Japanese beverage conglomerate Asahi was interested in acquiring National Beverage at some point.
And it's not like this is the first time America's interest in seltzer has proverbially "peaked." Back in 1983, a writer for the New York Times called the array of seltzers, sparkling waters, and club sodas on grocery store shelves "bewildering," and asked, "How else to explain the popularity of a brand like Perrier, which even the former president of its American company could not differentiate from ordinary club soda in a blind tasting? And why would anyone spend $1.29 for a bottle indistinguishable from the contents of a 39-cent bottle of seltzer?" If only they knew how far LaCroix has come—and who's to say that this formerly midwestern brand can't be reborn again? Maybe National Beverage will even start taking suggestions from the folks who have designed their own LaCroix cans.
But it won't hurt to pick up a couple of cases of LaCroix on your way home, just in case.