The wild evolution of the water bottle industry

We’ve entered a golden age of creativity in water bottle businesses.

We almost started this piece with a water joke but we weren’t sure if y’all were fans of dry humor. Anyway

It may seem like there’s not much left to innovate when it comes to something as straightforward as water bottles.

But in recent years, that simplicity has proven to be an opportunity, and we’ve entered a golden age for creativity in the space.

Let’s talk about Death

Liquid Death is truly a hilarious business. The company sells water in cans that look like 16-ounce beers, branded with slogans like “Murder your thirst.”

They’ve raised $130.6m in venture funding, which may sound odd — the company sells mountain water, not software. The answer is that Liquid Death is a lot like Red Bull: it’s about the brand, the media, and the stunts.

Those stunts include things like:

  • Cutie Polluties: Adorable $75 stuffed animals “that have been mutilated by single-use plastic.”
  • Kids “breaking the law”: A commercial featuring kids going crazy while drinking Liquid Death, as if they were crackin’ open some tallboys on gameday.

Others have reinvented the bottle model

For instance, FreeWater sells water bottle labels as ad space, then gives the bottles to people for free. Brands can distribute them on their own or pay FreeWater to do so.

  • In the future, the company plans to use the same playbook to expand to all kinds of product lines.

Last year, FreeWater gave away 32k bottles, earning 30 cents each — a third of which goes to charity. In 2021, it expects to distribute between 250k and 1m.

  • To learn more about its founder’s vision for creating a retail giant that gives everything away for free, check out our feature on the company.

BTW: The first commercially bottled water in America launched in 1767, not far from our homebase in Boston, at Jackson’s Spa.

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