The Brands that Made Bottled Water a Billion Dollar Industry

A recent report found that bottled water is a $14.5 billion industry. Personally, I grew up drinking Schuylkill punch and continue to drink tap (“spigot” as my grandmother would say) water to this day. But just about everyone I know hits up Sam’s Club or Costco for cases of water on a regular basis.

Chances are you do that too or you know someone who does.

This didn’t happen by accident. Somewhere between the Depression-era generation, who painted their legs instead of buying stockings, and the velour track suit-wearing generation of the 1990s, something changed.

NPR found that in 1976, Americans drank an average of one and half gallons of bottled water per year. Fast forward to 2008 and that number is at 30 gallons per year. It’s no doubt higher today.

It happened because of some seriously clever marketing strategies from the big boys who saw their soda demise coming. Creative ad agencies, PR pros and marketing managers pulled together to convince us, the world, that bottled water was worth buying. They created demand and hey, we bought it.

These are some of the companies responsible for making bottled water the empire it is today:

Coca Cola

Coca Cola launched its water brand, Dasani, in the United States in 1999. Despite a huge setback in the U.K. in 2004, when the brand was ripped apart by journalists for being well, just bottled tap water - and potentially contaminated at that - Dasani pulled it together to become one of the top water brands in the world and the top brand in the U.S

Coca Cola bought Glaceau, maker of the Smartwater brand, in 2007, and immediately signed on Jennifer Aniston as its spokeswoman, who remains present in Smartwater advertising to this day.


When the Smartwater brand launched in the U.K., 10 years after the Dasani debacle, Aniston brought star power to the launch campaign. Notably, Coca Cola chose the transparent route straight from the beginning, including the water processing method in the initial press release.

Notable advertising: Jennifer Aniston’s Sex Tape/Jennifer Aniston Goes Viral, 2011 



PepsiCo launched its water brand, Aquafina, in 1994. By 2007, the brand was pressured into updating its labeling to explicitly say that the water is taken from public tap water. They did and the Aquafina brand is still selling millions of dollars worth of water every year. It’s currently the second place brand in sales in the United States.

Notable advertising: Drink, Drink, Drink, 2006


Coming in at the third most bought bottled water brand in the United States is Nestle Pure Life. The parent company, Nestle, is a water powerhouse. It owns Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vale do Sol. Pure Life launched in 1998 and is now sold in 20 countries worldwide and is self-proclaimed to be the most popular bottled water brand in the world.

Notable advertising: Like Father, Like Son, 2011

These advertisements are just the surface of the millions of dollars that go into water marketing every single year. While there are a variety of skeptics that question why consumers buy bottled water at a 10,000 times cost mark-up, it hasn't slowed down this growing industry.

Read more about great branding execution here