- LaCroix is facing a new lawsuit that claims the president of its parent company, National Beverage Corp., 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 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 says.
- 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.
- National Beverage Corporation said in a statement to Business Insider that as of April 2019, all LaCroix cans are produced without BPA liners. “We intend to vigorously defend our company and our brands against false claims brought by this disgruntled former employee,” the company said.
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LaCroix is facing a new lawsuit that says the president of its parent company, National Beverage Corp., 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 president Joseph Caporella.
According to the suit filed on Thursday in Passaic Superior Court, in New Jersey, Caporella responded to Dejewski’s concerns with an emailed threat, and then, on April 11, fired him by phone over the BPA issue.
The lawsuit names Caporella and National Beverage Corp. as defendants. The company did not initially respond to requests for comment.
Following the publication of this story, National Beverage Corporation provided a statement to Business Insider that said the company began converting to BPA-free liners two years ago.
“As of April 2019, all cans produced for LaCroix products were produced without BPA liners,” the statement reads. “The FDA has stated BPA liners are safe and pose no risk at the trace levels found from its use in can linings of food and beverage products.”
“False statements were made in litigation brought by a former employee seeking to extract a monetary recovery from the company. We intend to vigorously defend our company and our brands against false claims brought by this disgruntled former employee.”
Dejewski, a veteran of Chobani and PepsiCo, was hired by the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based National Beverage Corp. in April 2018 as the vice president of commercial development and engagement for LaCroix, the suit says. He worked out of his home, in New Jersey.
The BPA issue arose a year later, on April 9, 2019, when Kate Zelenka, consumer-insights analyst for National Beverage, called Dejewski and said that Caporella was planning to falsely claim that LaCroix cans were BPA free, according to the suit.
“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 suit says.
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 said: “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 suit says.
Caporella was informed by “multiple senior executives” and the company’s general counsel not to make the announcement that its cans were BPA-free and “knew that making such an announcement would be a false advertisement,” the suit goes on. On April 10, Dejewski contacted Caporella by email to discuss the BPA issue, “along with other concerns regarding their publicity crisis.”
In addition, the suit says 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, 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 claims that “all LaCroix cans are produced without BPA.”
National Beverage is already embroiled in a legal battle. A lawsuit last year alleged that LaCroix contained 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 data.
If you work for National Beverage Corp. or LaCroix and have information to share, contact this reporter at [email protected]
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