Some of us are old enough to think of bottled water as a recent phenomenon. We remember a time when water was something drunk straight from the tap, and we marvel at the $12 billion that’s now spent annually on this country’s bottled water habit. Here are some special moments from the decades-long journey, courtesy of the bottled water industry.
It’s the little green bottle that conquered America. So chic, so French, Perrier was introduced to this country in 1976, ushering in the modern era of bottled water.
Evian, another French spring water, comes to the U.S. in 1978, marketed as a luxury brand with a premium price tag. The ah ha moment with the name comes soon after.
Truly a Great Moment in Bottled Water History, PepsiCo begins a national rollout of Aquafina in 1994. Labeled with snow-capped mountains and the tagline “Pure Water, Perfect Taste,” the bottles are filled with regular tap water that’s been filtered and purified. Aquafina goes on to become America’s top-selling brand of bottled water.
More of that American exceptionalism is on display as The Coca-Cola Company offers up Dasani, its own brand of processed tap water to compete with rival PepsiCo.
Coca-Cola campaigns to reduce what it calls “tap water incidence.” In 2000, the company launches the H20No website (since removed) instructing restaurants workers in the art of upselling bottled beverages, and tried again in 2010 with a program called Cap the Tap.
In 2001, PepsiCo names a new division president of U.S. Beverages. She promises Wall Street that “When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes.”
An undeniably Great Moment in Bottled Water History took place on September 15, 2007. It was also a big day for the 45,000 fans of University of Central Florida football who were attending the first home game in the school’s long-awaited and just completed stadium. Under the clear skies and 90°+ temperatures of a central Florida autumn, 78 people were treated for heat-related illnesses, 18 requiring hospitalization, as over-heated fans learned that their new $54 million stadium had been built without a single drinking water fountain.
After 4 billion or so years on Earth, water is finally declared ‘organic’ in 2011. Never mind that water is an inherently inorganic substance—it’s not alive and never was—Welsh bottler Llanllyr even claims extra purity because not only are their fields certified organic, but nuns have lived above the source for centuries.
PepsiCo tags water as the enemy in 2012’s brand-integrated mobile game, Bolt!. Treacherous water droplets hinder the progress of Olympic star Usain Bolt as he maneuvers through the popular game. Only Gatorade can help him win the race.
In June, 2014, Los Angeles restaurant worker Mark Riese becomes the first ‘water sommelier’ on national television when he’s a guest on Conan O’Brian’s late night talk show.
The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer market for bottled water. We buy 31 gallons for every person in America; that means we drink more bottled water than beer, milk, or fruit drinks—more than every other beverage except soda. We continue to make history.