This Dad's Pamplemousse LaCroix Memes Are Taking Over the Internet

We talked social justice with the man behind @PamplemousseLaCroixMemes—and he's got a lot to say.

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Jul 26 2016, 10:00pm

It's not often that a sparkling grapefruit beverage becomes a meme that facilitates conversations about institutional racism. Actually, that's probably only happened this one time.

LaCroix—the fruity, zero-cal, sugar-free seltzer brand that comes in retro-looking pastel cans—is having its moment. It seemed to explode in popularity overnight, despite its omnipresence in the refrigerators of Midwesterners for the past three decades. Stock prices in National Beverage Corp are at an all-time high, but the most stunning element of the LaCroix rise is the rapid boom in its social media presence. In particular, the "Pamplemousse" flavor (yep, French for "grapefruit") has been embraced in a startlingly cultish fashion, and is the subject of countless Reddit threads, Etsy crafts and, naturally, memes.

Nathan Sims, a (relatively) normal thirtysomething husband and father, has made a name for himself online as @PamplemousseLaCroixMemes, amassing more than 11,000 followers on Facebook. His memes—which are often faux-motivational posters involving the seltzer, or musings about LaCroix's cultural implications—get over 20 times as much engagement as the official LaCroix page's posts. MUNCHIES got down to the bottom of the meme-maker's motives.

MUNCHIES: Let's start off easy—in terms of pronunciation, is it "la croy" or "la kwah"? Nathan Sims: As one of the foremost experts on this bubbly beverage, me and my wife have always called it "la kwah". If you listen to the powers that be, namely the spokesmen of National Beverage, they say "la croy" because they're based out of the Midwest. So they're just kind of disregarding that it's actually a French name.

Why did you decide to start making your LaCroix memes? By day, I'm a partner at an internet retailer. But at night, I guess I'm an incognito pamplemousse meme guy. I'm probably one of their more effective marketing tools right now, although they've never acknowledged me—obviously I'm just doing this for fun.

I'm a creative person, but, right now in my life, I don't have time to make a concept record or a video game or work on an ambitious painting. Those things take time away from my duties as a dad, but this is something where I can illustrate a stupid little joke in my head, it takes me five minutes, and then I can get on with my life.

Can you explain the drink's sudden popularity boom? I think if you ask National Beverage why LaCroix is suddenly so popular, they'd attribute it to their insanely effective marketing campaign of targeting micro-influencer Millennials who do the work for them. And maybe that is an effective strategy, but I don't really know anyone who thinks what they do is cool or compelling. If you look at their social media, it's pretty much the White People Having Fun channel.

Your memes touch on a lot of larger issues than sparkling water. I want to show folks that you can kind of claim these hashtags. If you look at #LiveLaCroix, memes about racism and feminism come up now. I think people are taking this opportunity to inject some other messages into their marketing campaign. I'd noticed a couple of my memes were reaching really wide audiences and I figured [that] if I'm going to have the opportunity to reach a lot of people, I should take advantage of it instead of just glorifying some consumer product.

Do you think LaCroix is marketed towards a specific socioeconomic class? If you look at LaCroix's official social media accounts, whether they're conscious or unconscious of it, it's something that they're cultivating. It's a very specific group they're trying to reach—they're very young, they're very white, cool, and self-obsessed. The whole marketing strategy, asking people to take selfies with the product and then hashtag it is pretty much just promoting self-obsession. I think it's kind of gross. It's not just them, it's everybody in the marketing business. An unintended consequence is that I am, in part, promoting the brand. It's a problematic thing, and it's weird to be an unpaid experiential marketing guru for a company. Maybe I should come up with a healthier hobby.

Do you think young people, through memes, are becoming more aware of larger societal issues? On a good day, yeah. The most successful one I've done on Facebook is about how white people react to institutional racism compared to how they react to LaCroix.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I think memes are one of the few things we have on the internet that holds cultural value. It's such an interesting art form, but we haven't really explored how much can be done with it. And that's part of what I'm trying to do. It's just like any other art form, really, where people are just expressing themselves, and that's never a bad thing—I don't think people have really figured out everything you can do with the format, but we're getting there.

Thanks for talking with us.

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