Newberg-based Oregon Rain isn't produced in Pearl River Delta sweatshops. Nor is it filled with hazardous chemicals.
Instead, according to Sarah Bernard, grocery buyer at People's Food Co-op, Oregon Rain's problem is its pitchman, right-wing radio provocateur Lars Larson, who tells listeners that he is "hydrated by Oregon Rain."
"If someone is promoting what I see as intolerance, and they are also promoting bottled water, then I won't buy the water," Barnard says.
Larson's angry counter: "These people...would they describe themselves as tolerant progressive types?"
Mathew Lau, whose company distributes Oregon Rain to Portland-area natural-food stores, says at least one other store has dropped the product because of the Larson connection and a third refused to carry it, possibly for the same reason. Lau would not identify either store.
But Lau's big concern was his potential loss of New Seasons Market as a client. New Seasons CEO Brian Rohter has engaged in politically based boycotts before.
Rohter recently announced his Portland grocery chain would drop Rockstar Energy Drink because that company's founder is the son of Michael Savage, another archconservative radio talk-show host.
And two years ago, New Seasons refused to sell Alpenrose milk in cartons bearing ads for Savage's show on 750 KXL, which also airs Larson. Alpenrose sales manager Tom Baker says Alpenrose now specifies that KXL not run the dairy's ads during Savage's show or other politically divisive programs and stop printing Savage ads on its milk cartons.
Rohter did not return messages, but his store stocked Oregon Rain as of Nov. 3.
Oregon Rain vice president Dan McGee says his company advertises with Larson for his statewide audience, not to promote his politics.
"It's just business,"says McGee, pointing out that Larson's endorsement is part of a marketing campaign that includes TV ads, promotions at the Rose Garden and sponsorship of several athletic teams. His company, which shipped 7 million bottles of water in 2004, its first year in business, has no plans to remove its ads from Larson's show. Oregon Rain did, at Lau's request, remove its website's link to Larson's homepage.
Larson, for whom controversy is like catnip, insists advertisers love his show. And why not? In the past two years, Larson has nearly doubled the number of stations nationwide, from 90 to 175, that carry his syndicated broadcasts (Larson hosts local and nationally syndicated shows, both aired on KXL).
"How is it tolerant to say, 'If I disagree with your opinion, I won't do business with you?'" he asks. "I think that's an intolerant point of view."