For years, La Croix has ruled the seltzer market with an iron fist. But now La Croix’s grasp on “the share of throat” (Hey, beverage industry? Why you gotta be nasty?) is slipping, since the competition has realized it isn’t really that hard to make sparkling water. La Croix’s troubles have been further compounded by scandals such as refusing to admit what exactly their “natural essences” are and sexual misconduct allegations against their CEO, as well as the fact that they haven’t exactly tried to do anything particularly innovative to stay ahead.
Enter Spindrift and White Claw. Both have used La Croix’s “all natural” angle (“Real Fruit Tastes Better” and “Made Pure,” respectively), but with their own twists that have allowed them to take sizable shares of La Croix’s market. So I’ve decided to try a few of them to see what the fuss is all about.
I feel the need to also comment on how neither of them are paying me to write this, which sucks because these shits were expensive ($3 for a single can of seltzer? More like Spin-Grift am I right?)
Spindrift’s claim to fame is that instead of being seltzer flavored with essential oils, it’s flavored with juice. This probably came about after the avalanche of memes of people complaining that La Croix has no flavor. And, it’s true, Spindrifts as a whole are much more flavorful than any standard seltzer. But can a seltzer with juice mixed with juice still be called a seltzer? I mean, it’s not just carbonated juice-drink, like San Pellegrino, the first thing on the ingredients list is carbonated water. Regardless of whatever arbitrary box you want to put it in, at ~10 calories per 12 oz can, Spindrift quickly became a popular alternative for those looking for something with a little more flavor but without the calories of a soda.
The predominant flavor here is dull, grassy, sour mango. On one hand, it’s hard to get mad because that is what a mango tastes like (or a least the shitty ones we get in the U.S.). But without any added sweeteners or flavorings, it doesn’t make for an especially enjoyable beverage. As I begrudgingly drank the rest of the six-pack, I found that some were better than others, which makes me think that they might just be using whatever mangoes they can get without regard to ripeness. The orange is there too, if you really look for it, but it isn’t enough to balance the flavor.
This is probably the most raspberry tasting anything I’ve ever had. Not raspberry flavored, not whatever the fuck blue raspberry is (why have we, as a society, accepted blue raspberry this whole time?), but real raspberry, with a perfect amount of tartness. However, like the Orange Mango, the citrus counterpart is barely there, with the lime being mostly an aftertaste. Still, this is probably my favorite of the three.
While the flavor here is definitely blackberry, its missing some of the richness or depth that I’d usually associate with dark fruit. But that’s fine, considering this is, at the end of the day, supposed to be a sparkling water-based drink. Oddly enough, as the one of the three here that didn’t advertise citrus in the name, there is a noticeable hint of lemon, which is on the ingredients label, and does play well with the blackberry.
At the other end of the seltzer band wagon, we have hard seltzers, and none have earned as big of a cult-like following than White Claw. It’s gotten to the point that their “lifestyle” branding is almost as widespread as La Croix’s. Many of their detractors have argued that they’re basically the same as a vodka soda, and that “lazy millennials are killing the art of making mixed drinks,” but I think the point here is the convenience of grabbing a six-pack on the way to a party or some other event where you can’t easily mix your own drink. And at 100 calories a can, it’s definitely still playing to a more health-conscious crowd, as well as giving the gluten-free crowd another alcoholic alternative.
At the other end of the mango spectrum, the mango flavor here is so subtle that you have to focus in order to taste it. But it is much sweeter here- or at least in terms of balancing against the booze.
Maybe it’s because the alcohol gives it a slightly thicker mouthfeel, but this seems to have the aforementioned dark fruit richness that was missing from Spindrift’s blackberry seltzer, and is one of the few “black cherry” things that I’ve had that didn’t just taste like regular cherry. This one is easily the smoothest of the three that I tried.
First off, I’m suspicious of this name. None of the other flavors felt the need to flaunt their naturalness, but they do for this one? Anyway, the lime is strong, yet isn’t overly sour. It basically tastes like a vodka tonic with an extra lime wedge.
If my reviews of White Claw’s flavors don’t seem as verbose as the ones for Spindrift, its because the flavors as a whole aren’t as bold, so there really isn’t as much to talk about. But ultimately, that’s kinda the point. Spindrift’s here to offer those bigger, bolder flavors than any plain seltzer could, and White Claw is here to be Gen Z’s version of Zima.
4 thoughts on “Look out, La Croix! There’s Some New Seltzers in Town!”
I can’t get on the craze behind seltzers/hard seltzers. It’s like drinking an alcoholic Propel water, which is already kind of gross. But, to each their own.
I guess the main appeal is to have something like soda, but without the sugar. If you don’t like soda in the first place, I guess nothing’s better than good ol’ w o t e r
I’ve been drinking a lot of Bubly (canned seltzer with younger-seeming branding than La Croix) as of late.
Possibly due to market manipulation on Amazon’s part. My groceries are delivered via Amazon Fresh.*
At any given time, Bubly has prominent position on the Amazon Fresh homepage. It’s priced very reasonably at about $10 per 18 cans, which I buy in 6- or 8-flavor assorted packs.
Recently, I decided to try La Croix and switch it up. Prices seemed comparable but there was a noticeable difference in stock.
What I mean is, you can decide at 10 PM that you want any pack of Bubly in a grocery order for the next morning and that’s not an issue. It’s well-stocked.
La Croix, on the other hand, has 2-3 day lead times for almost all the packs.** Judging from my own behavior, I’m guessing most Amazon Fresh users do not order that far in advance.
* Withhold your judgment. I’m aware that this is lazy slash privileged behavior, I’m killing the American grocery store as we know it, etc. etc. etc.
** Except the pack which is all lime. That’s what I got. I am now very sick of lime La Croix and will continue to order the Bubly assorted packs like Amazon wants me to.
I’ve had Bubly a few times, it’s definitely another contender in the running for La Croix’s crown, I just didn’t mention it here since it doesn’t have any differentiating gimmicks like these ones do.
Also, I’m not surprised that their owner, Pepsi, is willing to throw some cash at Amazon to keep it on the front page like that. (And given the limited amount of locations where Amazon Fresh delivers, it might be a bit of a stretch to say they’re outright killing the American grocery store…)