Why France destroyed thousands of bottles of Haitian soda (hint: it involves champagne)

·2 min read
Jacqueline Charles/jcharles@miamiheald.com

First it was thousands of bottles of American Miller High Life beer. Now, it’s a popular Haitian soft drink.

Haitians are aghast that France, their former colonizer, has destroyed 35,000 bottles of Kola “Couronne Fruit Champagne,” the sweet orange soda that always reminds Haitians of home and of their childhood.

“Wait a minute,” one Twitter used tweeted in Creole, followed by an expletive. “It’s fruit champagne, OK, not Champagne.”

But to France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, the trade association for the champagne industry and the only one under European Union laws that can grant use of the word champagne on labels, it would seem that taste doesn’t matter.

The Haitian soda, roughly 1,200 cases of 24 bottles each, were destroyed by French border police after being seized in October 2021 and a court in Paris ruled that they infringe on the regulation dictating who has the rights to use the word “champagne,” said the British Broadcasting Corporation, which first reported the story.

The decision comes amid increased vigilance by the trade association. Last month, Belgium destroyed 2,352 cans of Miller High Life beer after the association complained that the maker was improperly labeling its product as “Champagne.” The beer’s slogan is “The Champagne of Beers.”

Champagne, the trade association argues, should only be for sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France by a traditional method and that “Champagne” is prestigious label and should not be taken lightly — or used by just anyone.

The Haiti-based bottler of the soda, Couronne, has not made any public statements about what happened. But a source with the Port-au-Prince bottler told the Miami Herald that the company does not export the soda, and surmised that a homesick Haitian mgith have shipped the soda in a container to France.

The soda can be found in supermarkets throughout Miami that cater to Haitians. It is bottled locally in the United States where there is a demand from the growing Haitian population — especially now that they can’t easily fly to a Haiti and bring cases home.

The Haitian company has been in existence for over 70 years, and while there are other versions of “fruit champagne” sodas in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica’s Kola Champagne, the Haitian bottler insists that Haiti’s is something special. “This is our formula. It’s a precious formula and it’s different,” he said.

“It’s been part of Haitian life, and the Couronne is part of the culture of Haiti. It’s one of the best fruit champagnes,” he added. “People really love the flavor, because it’s special.”