The Texan identity has been all wrapped up in Topo Chico for a while now. This is sort of weird. Unlike H-E-B and Whataburger, Topo Chico has never been a Texas company; it’s sourced and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico, and since 2017 it’s been owned by Coca-Cola, the sworn enemy of every die-hard Dr Pepper fan. But Texans are a famously thirsty people—how could you not be in this heat?—and Topo Chico was a reliable quencher. And when we become passionate about a beverage, we demand the world take note. Thus Topo Chico became “Texan.”
That’s why a current Topo Chico shortage has become actual news in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. The company is having a hard time meeting demand throughout the country, and customers are seeing empty shelves where the Topo Chicos are supposed to go. That is supposedly a bad thing, to the extent that a Topo Chico representative had to assure news outlets that, as reported by San Antonio TV station KSAT, the company is “working hard and implementing contingency plans to keep the products people love on shelves during this temporary shortage.”
Okay, fair. But also, who cares? These days, there are approximately one trillion sparkling water brands that you can get from H-E-B, Target, Brookshire Brothers, Lowe’s, and everywhere else. Sure, when Topo Chico was coming up, the only other brand widely available was LaCroix, which has tiny gentle bubbles and goes flat in half an hour, so Topo was obviously king. But now we have Austin-based companies like Rambler, which has a refreshingly potent carbonation, and Waterloo, which is killing it in the “flavor essence” game (I personally ride hard for Black Cherry, which tastes like a not-sugary Hi-C). Big Swig is out here getting wild with prickly pear, pickle juice, and jalepeño flavors; and you can always count on Richard’s Rainwater to cool you off in a pinch. Don’t even get me started on H-E-B, which has not only its own line of flavored canned waters but also the glass-bottled 1877 Mineral Water, which is just as good as Topo Chico, if not better. These are just some of the Texas companies (Waterloo did sell to a private equity company from New York last year, but I like Black Cherry enough to let that slide … for now). If you want to keep supporting a Mexican mineral water, then you should buy Tehuacán Brillante. It’s also just as good as Topo, and it ain’t owned by Coke.
Maybe we should take advantage of this forced break between Texans and our Topo. Maybe we should reflect on what we actually want from our mineral water. Is it carbonation that makes our nasal passages hurt a little? Is it flavor? If Topo is truly meant to be our number one bubbly water, then absence will only make the heart grow fonder. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll realize we’re only holding on to a memory of what Topo Chico used to mean to us. Maybe we’ll realize we don’t need that anymore. Maybe we’ll decide that all sparkling waters are Texan, which I’m sure will annoy those who resent our tendency to claim things that don’t belong to us. But we’ve never let that stop us before.