As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, JoAnn Schinderle couldn't have cared less about LaCroix Sparkling Water.
It was a mom drink, the kind of thing people brought over for a potluck -- if they wanted to disappoint the children. She remembers her family taking in a German foreign exchange student, who couldn't get enough of the stuff.
"I hated it," says Schinderle, who grew up "all over" Wisconsin, and went to high school in Eau Claire. "I was like, 'this tastes like nothing. Why would I drink it?'"
She could never understand how her "very sober mother" could travel to the Old Style brewing facility in LaCrosse, home of the famous "world's largest six pack" display, and come back with nothing but a bunch of boring-ass LaCroix.
Schinderle was "reintroduced" to the local product during high school, in the late 1990s, when LaCroix started offering more flavors. It grew on her.
And on America. Today, LaCroix is ubiquitous, the best-selling brand of sparkling water in the country. For many consumers, it's supplanted diet soft drinks as a guilt-free addiction; last year, a Bloomberg business story lauded LaCroix for its fiercely loyal clientele.
From 2010 to 2014, while Pepsi and Coca Cola's shares of the water industry shrank, LaCroix's parent company saw its share grow by two-thirds.
Schinderle's seeing the drink more and more along the West Coast. Based in Portland, Schinderle travels the region working as a stand-up comic. Now that Washington, Oregon, and California all allow recreational use of marijuana, some conscientious users are picking LaCroix instead of booze when they're getting stoned. It's also popular among people who are hungover, or recovering alcoholics.
Schinderle herself is drinking a lot more of it during a recent calculated stretch of sobriety.
"I'm trying to lose weight and get on TV," she says.
She always felt a twinge of Wisconsin pride when she saw the pastel-colored cans in the hands of stylish Portlandia hipsters and sunkissed beauties in L.A.
Then she heard how they were pronouncing it. "La-kwah," they said. As if Schinderle had fallen bumped her head and somehow woken up on the French Riviera.
Taking it upon herself to gently correct them -- "LaCroix," she says, leaving a hard 'r' in there -- Schinderle's been surprised to find people fighting back, as if they know better than her. One talked down to her, as though she was a "brand ambassador" for LaCroix.
Schinderle pulls rank. I'm from Wisconsin, she says. The drink is named for the city of LaCrosse, its home, and for the St. Croix River, and anyone who pronounces that river "kwah" was French and is dead.
The debate is a pretty common one, if Google's search autocomplete is any indication.
(Side note: "how do you pronounce lawyer"? Really, people?)
The answer, from the people at LaCroix themselves: "La-CROY. It rhymes with ‘enjoy’."
The motivation for Schinderle's one-woman crusade against a Frenchified pronunciation is clear. Some people she comes across are just a liiiiittle arrogant, and need some help getting taken down a peg.
"It's Midwestern pride," she says. "It's probably less to do about the [LaCroix] company, and more about me."
She adds: "Now I feel so much ownership over it. It's like when people say they don't like Brett Favre."
Them's fightin' words to a Wisconsinite. So, too, is "LaCroix," if you're not pronouncing it right. Schinderle will be happy to give you a lesson over a couple cans. (She likes the grapefruit and lemon flavors.)
"Drinking it makes me feel like I'm fancy," Schinderle says.
The drink's fancy enough. No need to say it like you're about to put on a beret.