Fort Lauderdale-based National Beverage Corp. is best known for La Croix, a brand of sparkling water that comes in a plethora of flavors ranging from classic lemon to blackberry/cucumber.
Now the company has ignited heated debate over the marketing of its new flavors that, according to a press release, “highlight the lively, exotic Miami personality.”
On the Coffea Exotica can, a young woman in an orange miniskirt rests her knee on a large coffee cup emblazoned with “habana.”
The Cubana flavor depicts a woman in a bikini perched on the rim of a giant mojito on the beach.
Some Miamians are angered by the graphics. On Facebook, PR professional JennyLee Molina, who also maintains the 305 Cafecito blog, called the cans “a purposely tacky depiction of our culture.”
She posted the following on her 305 Cafecito Instagram page:
Can we all agree that the cheesy depiction of Cuba and our heritage by people who don’t understand the U.S. Hispanic culture is a little insulting? This is a brand known for impeccable design and branding which we REALLY love but when they launched this product they completely missed the mark. Was this designed in 1996? These fonts are hurting our eyes, @lacroixwater. And what’s with the bikini-clad girl? You can do better than that! And what is “coffea?” Agree, disagree? Comment below. “
Comments on both posts range from outraged to confused to simply resigned to the fact Miami marketing culture can be, well, out of touch. Several people cited the Estrella Insurance ads that depicted women in tiny dresses bound by rope.
Molina tells New Times that the soda cans “feel inauthentic” and that she thinks the sparkling-water company has jumped on the “Cuba-is-cool bandwagon.” Molina also wonders why La Croix placed a woman on the soda cans. “Why do you need to have a girl in a bikini?” Asked whether she had tasted the soda or seen the cans, Molina mentioned the soda was handed out at Miami’s Seed Food & Wine Festival, though she didn’t have a chance to taste it.
A spokesperson for National Beverage Corp. said that the soda is part of a larger campaign to showcase various countries through their flavors and that the two sparkling waters “celebrate the Cuban culture.” The spokesperson also said, “Thirty-five thousand consumers tried the soda and completed a survey on them, and no comments said the portrayal of Cuba was untoward in its depiction of the country or its community.”
The new flavors were tested at various locations, including local Milam’s Markets. Milam chief sales officer Lee C. Milam confirms the sodas were sampled at various Milam’s locations throughout Miami-Dade but was not aware of the social media controversy. He says he was approached by the makers of La Croix to sample the product a few months ago. “We were not aware of the concerns from the community, and if there are negative feelings, we will work to address them.”
Milam adds that the sodas are not yet available at any of his stores, but he’s spoken with National Beverage Corp. as recently as last week to extend the in-store taste trials. The sodas, according to the company, are available in St. Louis and will be coming to the Miami market soon. A Facebook page dedicated to the new flavors hasn’t been updated since September 2018.