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The global bottled water industry is worth $7.3 billion each year and is expected to grow at a rate of 7.6% over the next five years, a rate that’s rising quicker than that of other popular beverages such as beer and wine.
The profit margins for bottled water companies is considerable, typically ranging from 50% to 200%.
It may be surprising that even in an industry as seemingly plain as bottled water, consumer trends and tastes are constantly changing.
Consider the explosion in popularity of vitamin water in the 2000s, or perhaps the rise of bottled water brands with sleek, fashionable bottle designs in the last few years.
Companies in the space are constantly developing new products and adapting their marketing strategies in a bid to win market share over each other.
If you’re an investor or planning to enter the industry yourself, it’s prudent to study what the existing industry giants are doing with success.
The ten largest bottled water companies in the world in 2020 were:
The 10 Largest Bottled Water Companies in the World: A Closer Look
Aquafina. Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas
Gross annual sales: $872 million
Aquafina was established in 1999 and has since become the largest bottled water brand in the world.
Currently owned by PepsiCo, the company produces both flavored and unflavored water, as well as other branded products such as lip balm and even clothing.
Aquafina sources its water from municipal tap, and then refines it through a purification process involving reverse osmosis and ultraviolet sterilization, resulting in a distinct taste that millions of consumers have grown accustomed to.
Aquafina has access to an extremely broad and efficient distribution network due to their ownership under Pepsico.
They also market the packaging of their products as extremely environment-friendly, boosting their sales with an increasingly growing base of environmentally-conscious consumers.
Dasani. Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Gross annual sales: $765 million
Dasani, owned by the Coca-Cola company, is another well-known bottled water brand that was founded in 1999.
The brand separates itself from Aquafina with water that their tagline claims is “enriched with minerals for a pure, fresh taste.”
The water, also sourced from municipal tap, is injected with trace amounts of minerals after it undergoes a purification process in order to create a distinct flavor.
Just like Aquafina, the Dasani brand sells both flavored and unflavored water, as well as many merchandising products that display the Dasani name.
A little known fact is that even Dasani’s unflavored water actually contains small amounts of natural fruit flavor, making it even more unique than other bottled water brands.
Nestle Waters. Headquarters: Paris, France
Gross annual sales: $3.4 billion
Nestle Waters is a subsidiary under the larger Nestle corporation, which also sells other beverages and snacks such as flavored milk and chocolate.
The company operates 94 production facilities over 34 different countries, and continuously innovates and markets itself to remain relevant and popular among consumers.
Much of Nestle’s marketing strategy is devoted to researching the positive health benefits of drinking water and staying hydrated, and then spreading those findings among the public with their own name attached.
For example, when Nestle first developed a line of flavored sparkling water, they marketed it as a healthier alternative to more densely sugar-packed drinks such as sodas and juices.
Glaceau SmartWater. Headquarters: Whitestone, New York
Gross annual sales: $920 million
Glaceau SmartWater separates itself from the other bottled water companies by focusing specifically on their purification process, or rather the lack of one.
Many of their advertisements claim that their water is as “pure as the first drop of rain,” focusing on how they don’t tamper or add any sort of minerals or flavoring to the water they source.
That doesn’t mean that Glaceau SmartWater simply sells water to consumers straight from the tap. Rather, they use a unique process that simulates the natural hydrologic cycle, vapor distilling water so that it essentially becomes like rainwater before it reaches the ground and becomes polluted.
This unique process and marketing approach has found great success with consumers seeking water that’s as pure as untouched as possible, launching the company into the fourth best-selling bottled water brand in the world.
Poland Spring. Headquarters: Poland, Maine
Gross annual sales: $670 million
Although Poland Spring has lost most of its market share to other companies since its peak in 2006, it still remains one of the best-selling bottled water in the United States.
Founded and headquartered in Poland, Maine, the company produces a variety of different beverage products including sparkling, distilled, and spring water. Many of these products also come with numerous choice flavors, such as orange, lemon, and lime.
Most of Poland Spring’s water is sourced from natural springs in Maine, and then transported to New England for purification and packaging.
The company is especially well known in Maine not just because of their main operations, but because of various water donation programs that they run to bring bottled water to struggling communities.
In 2016 alone, Poland spring donated over 800,000 bottles of water in the state of Maine.
Much of Poland Spring’s marketing is focused on the spring water aspect of their product.
This can be seen in their name, tagline of “100% natural spring water,” as well as packaging that displays picturesque scenes of natural rivers.
Danone. Headquarters: Paris, France
Gross annual sales: $540 million
Danone Bottled’s popularity peaked in 2015 when the company possessed a 10.1% market share in the global bottled water industry, an enormous figure of over $200 billion.
Although the company has lost ground to other names since then, it’s still one of the best-selling bottled water brands in the world.
Like Nestle Waters, Danone Bottled leans heavily into the themes of hydration and health when advertising their product.
Another reason for their success is the usability of their bottled waters. Almost every design aspect of Danone Bottled’s products is focused on making them more practical and easier to transport and use for consumers. This makes them extremely popular for offices and families bulk-packaging bottled water for travel or special events.
Gross annual sales: $220 million
Although Fiji isn’t the largest bottled water brand, they are the largest exporter of the product in the United States and they sell their water to over 60 countries around the world.
Fiji was founded in 1996, but really saw most of their explosive growth in popularity after 2010. Much of this is attributed to the sleek, trendy look of their bottles, making them extremely popular among younger consumers.
It isn’t uncommon for fans of the brand to pose at home with their Fiji water bottles on social media, boosting their visibility and sales.
This has actually led to a pattern of major bottled water companies redesigning their packaging to be more visually appealing.
In many ways, Fiji’s marketing and design strategies are polar opposites to those of Danone Bottled.
Danone Bottled prioritizes functionality of design, making them popular among consumers who just need bulk bottled water to prepare for travel or large events. In contrast, Fiji sells high-priced individual bottles to customers that just want to buy one for themselves.
Tingyi/Master Kong. Headquarters: Tianjin, China
Gross annual sales: $210 million
The Master Kong bottled water brand is owned by Tingyi Holdings Corporation, a company founded in 1996 and based out of Tianjin, China.
Master Kong is mainly sold in China, with nearly no sales or marketing presence in the United States. Still, the brand held 12% market share of the global bottled-water market in 2014.
Tingyi doesn’t focus on one particular aspect when marketing their bottled water products. Instead, they focus on various elements such as their health benefits, purity, and refreshing mineral taste.
Deer Park. Headquarters: Deer Park, Maryland
Gross annual sales: $58.1 million
If you’re familiar with bottled water brands, it’s extremely common for companies that source their water from their neighboring municipal tap water to claim that it actually comes from natural spring water.
Deer Park differs in that their tagline of “100% Natural Spring Water” is completely true. Starting with one spring in the Appalachian Mountains, the company has since expanded its operations to 13 other springs spread across four states.
Their products include both flavored and unflavored bottled water, and are all free of sugars or color additives.
Deer Park is also unique in that they’ve been in the bottled water business for an extremely long time. While most other leading brands were established in the 90s, Deer Park was founded in 1873.
Ozarka. Headquarters: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Gross annual sales: $21 million
Ozarka sells various beverage products including spring, distilled, and sparkling water.
The majority of their water is sourced from three springs spread across 150 miles along the eastern side of Texas.
Texas also contributes to the majority of Ozarka’s bottled water sales. Much of this is due to the public attention that the company generated through their conservation efforts and environmentally-sustainable business processes.