Business

Drinks billionaire criticised over handicapped gaffe

LaCroix fizzy drink Image copyright National Beverage Corporation
Image caption National Beverage Corp makes La Croix drinks

The billionaire chief executive of a US firm has been lambasted for comparing managing a soft drinks brand to "caring for someone who becomes handicapped".

Nick Caporella, the boss of National Beverage Corp. made the comment as he revealed falling quarterly results.

He said: "Brands do not see or hear, so they are at the mercy of their owners or care providers."

But a number of civil rights organisations called his remarks "ugly", "bizarre" and "offensive".

Katherine Carroll, policy director at the Center for Disability Rights, said Mr Caporella's statement was "downright bizarre", adding that "it is just another example of people just really getting it wrong about disabled people and how we live".

Howard Rosenblum, chief executive at the National Association of the Deaf, said it was unfortunate that Mr Caporella "would say something so inappropriate, offensive, and misguided".

He said: "His comment reflects his ignorant and incorrect understanding of people with disabilities, many of whom are highly successful people who are doctors, attorneys, scientists, writers, actors, chief executives, business entrepreneurs, parents, grandparents, and much more.

"Given the economic power of many people with disabilities and their families and loved ones, his comment has dragged down the so-called "dignity and special character" of the National Beverage Corporation brand."

A spokesperson for National Beverage, said Mr Caporella's intentions were "very honourable'.

"What he means is that a person who is handicapped or disabled has a need for tender care and love. He looks at the brand in the same manner."

He added that Mr Caporella, who is worth $2.4bn according to Forbes, "has long had an affinity for the downtrodden in society" which is reflected in the businessman's philanthropic work.

But Robert Schoenfeld, executive board member at Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York said: "I think it was a very poor thing to say, it was a very ugly think to say."

'Injustice'

Mr Caporella, who founded National Beverage in 1985, was speaking about the company's LaCroix brand of flavoured sparkling water amid results which showed a near 40% fall in profits to $24.8m and a drop in sales for the three months to 26 January.

Mr Caporella said the fall in quarterly sales and profits was a result of "injustice".

Shares in National Beverage are down 15.79%

Last year, a lawsuit claimed that National Beverage's use of "all natural" and "100% natural" on its LaCroix products was "intentionally misleading" because it allegedly uses synthetic chemical ingredients.

National Beverage has denied the allegation.

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