Founded in 2015 by Mike Cessario, Liquid Death has carved a unique niche in the beverage industry with its irreverent branding and commitment to environmental sustainability. Their mission, as stated on their Wikipedia, is to “bring death to plastic” by offering water in 100% recyclable tallboy cans. The brand’s edgy marketing, with slogans like “Murder Your Thirst” and “Death to Plastic,” reflects a more rebellious spirit that resonates with a young, environmentally conscious audience as it was introduced to stored like Whole Foods where it became “the fastest-selling water brand on its shelves” according to Eater.com. This has enabled Liquid Death to carve out a substantial portion of the $500 billion dollar water market – as of late 2022, Liquid Death was worth north of $700 million. Not bad for a company with drink names like Mango Chainsaw, Severed Lime, Convicted Melon, Berry It Alive, Grim Leafer and Rest in Peach.
In an unexpected turn of events, Liquid Death has again found itself navigating legal waters, this time with the name of their popular Armless Palmer drink, a tea and lemonade blend. According to Liquid Death’s Instagram post on November 25, 2023, the name change to “Dead Billionaire” (hah!) was a strategic move to avoid a costly legal battle with a company far more financially equipped for such a fight. The challenger? Presumably Arizona Beverage Company, the largest distributor of Arnold Palmer line of beverages, although that’s just speculation. Here’s what Liquid Death published about the change:
If you like our Armless Palmer tea/lemonade, then you are going to LOVE our new Dead Billionaire tea/lemonade. Why? Because it’s the EXACT same thing, only now it has a way cooler name that won’t require us to fight a senseless legal battle with a large enterprise who sent us a letter saying we can’t use the word “Palmer” and who are also partnered with a giant iced tea corporation. Both of whom have far more $$$ to burn on legal fees than we do. Our new Dead Billionaire cans have started to trickle out on Amazon and will begin hitting retail shelves in the spring. Experts are predicting potential brawls in retailers as customers fight over remaining Armless Palmer cans before they become extinct forever and reselling as collectors items for billions of dollars. ☠️💵
The beverage industry is no stranger to trademark disputes. Names, particularly those associated with famous personalities or existing brands, are often the subject of legal contention. In fact, this isn’t even the first time the Arnold Palmer drink has lawyers throwing fists:
- Misleading “Lite” Label Controversy: In a notable legal dispute, Arizona Beverages faced allegations over the marketing of its Arnold Palmer Half & Half Iced Tea & Lemonade Lite. A lawsuit filed in February 2022 claimed that the beverage’s “Lite” label misled consumers into believing it contained fewer calories and sugar than it actually did, sparking concerns about transparency in health-related branding. (source)
- Deceptive Packaging Claims: Further intensifying the scrutiny, the company was accused of designing the branding and packaging of its “Lite” Arnold Palmer beverages to deceive and mislead consumers. This lawsuit suggested that the misleading packaging led consumers to purchase more of these beverages, and at higher prices, than they would have if the true calorie content was known. (source)
- Class Action Over Deceptive Labeling: In October 2020, a class action lawsuit was brought against Arizona Beverages USA LLC. The lawsuit alleged deceptive labeling practices for its Arnold Palmer products, representing a broader consumer challenge against the accuracy of the product’s marketing claims. (source)
- “No Calories” Claim Under Fire: The accuracy of Arizona Beverages’ calorie-related claims came under legal scrutiny once again in June 2021. A class action lawsuit questioned the legitimacy of the “no calories” claim on the company’s Arnold Palmer Zero half-iced tea, half-lemonade products, highlighting the importance of truthful nutritional information. (source)
- Repeated Challenges for Arnold Palmer Lite Iced Tea: Arnold Palmer Lite Iced Tea has faced multiple legal challenges regarding its labeling. A Michigan lawsuit, for instance, claimed that the drink’s zero-calorie line actually contained 15 calories, contrary to its marketing. This case underscored ongoing concerns about the accuracy of nutritional labels in the beverage industry. (source)
As a footnote, kudos to Liquid Death for bringing its water production state side. Earlier this year, they moved their water sourcing from Austria to Virginia. We always love when American businesses keep manufacturing local!