- LaCroix is facing a new lawsuit that claims the president of its parent company, National Beverage Corporation, planned to falsely state in April that its sparkling water cans were free of the toxic chemical Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA.
- National Beverage Corporation president Joseph Caporella "had decided to prematurely announce that the LaCroix cans would be BPA-free going forward, months before the true production date, in order to drive positive buzz and awareness for the suffering brand," the lawsuit claims.
- Albert Dejewski, a former LaCroix executive, was fired less than 24 hours after raising concerns about the alleged BPA-free claim, according to the suit.
- LaCroix currently states on its website that its cans are BPA-free.
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LaCroix is facing a new lawsuit that claims the president of its parent company, National Beverage Corporation, planned to falsely state in April that its sparkling water cans were free of the toxic chemical Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA.
The suit claims that Albert Dejewski, a former LaCroix executive, was wrongfully fired less than 24 hours after raising objections to the alleged BPA proposal in an email to National Beverage Corporation president Joseph Caporella.
Caporella allegedly responded to Dejewski’s concerns with an emailed threat, then fired him over a phone call on April 11 that cited the BPA issue, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in Passaic Superior Court in New Jersey.
The lawsuit names Caporella and National Beverage Corporation as defendants. National Beverage Corporation and its attorneys did not respond to requests for comment. Attempts to reach Caporella by phone were unsuccessful.
Dejewksi, a veteran of Chobani and PepsiCo, was hired by Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based National Beverage Corporation in April 2018 as the vice president of commercial development and engagement for LaCroix, according to the suit. He worked out of his home in New Jersey.
The BPA issue arose one year later on April 9, 2019, when Kate Zelenka, consumer insights analyst for National Beverage Corporation, called Dejewski and said that Caporella was planning to falsely claim that LaCroix cans were BPA free, according to the lawsuit.
"During the telephone conversation, Zelenka sounded distressed and said that she was upset because Caporella had decided to prematurely announce that the LaCroix cans would be BPA-free going forward, months before the true production date, in order to drive positive buzz and awareness for the suffering brand," the lawsuit states. Zelenka did not respond to a request for comment.
The complaint cites text messages exchanged on April 9 between Zelenka and Dejewski, in which Zelenka stated: "Saying we are BPA Free when we are not. This truly feels like an integrity issue now."
Dejewski, who planned to address this with Caporella, responded, "Yup, I will clearly communicate that."
At the time, LaCroix was "at a minimum 4-6 months away from being able to replace its cans with ones that were BPA-free," the lawsuit claims.
Caporella was informed by "multiple senior executives" and the company’s general counsel not to make the announcement, and "knew that making such an announcement would be a false advertisement," according to the lawsuit.
On April 10, Dejewski contacted Caporella by email to discuss the BPA issue, "along with other concerns regarding their publicity crisis," the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, Caporella responded to Dejewski in an email, writing that he didn’t "know how you heard about BPA, but tell your source if they want to stay with the company, what’s said in Ft Lauderdale [sic], stays in here!"
Caporella fired Dejewski the following day, April 11, during a phone call that included the company’s general counsel, according to the suit.
The lawsuit is requesting damages due to lost salary and benefits, as well as pain, suffering, emotional distress, and humiliation.
LaCroix’s website currently claims that "all LaCroix cans are produced without BPA."
National Beverage Corporation is already embroiled in a legal battle.
A lawsuit last year alleged that LaCroix contains artificial ingredients, contrary to the company’s "all-natural" marketing claims. LaCroix has denied the claims in the suit.
Following the lawsuit, sales of LaCroix took a nosedive, according to Nielsen data cited by Guggenheim Securities analyst Laurent Grandet. Over a 12-week period ended in May, sales declined 9.4%, according to the Nielsen data.
If you work for National Beverage Corporation or LaCroix and have information to share, contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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