How the Designer Water Bottle Got Us To Take Hydration Seriously

Graphic: W+G Creative
The Stanley Adventure Quencher wasn’t always a hydration status symbol. In fact, the now-widely beloved 40-ounce size of the stainless steel tumbler wasn't one of Stanley’s most popular items until relatively recently in the 110-year-old outdoor gear brand's history.

In 2017, the Buy Guide, an e-commerce blog with a loyal fan base, began suggesting the product its readers. It did so again—after Stanley stopped selling the Quencher on its website in 2019 for a few months—in 2020 and 2021. By then, Stanley took notice. “The Buy Guide’s authentic advocacy propelled the Quencher to great success,” says Terence Reilly, Global President of Stanley. “Organic word of mouth started to build on social media around the Quencher. We reintroduced the product in core colorways and limited-edition hues, which, over time, has led to the product’s immense success.”

Experts In This Article

Now, it’s nearly impossible to log into social media without seeing your high school bestie, your little cousin, or your favorite influencer touting one (or, heck, eight) in a variety of colors. With the hashtag for the $45 or $50 must-have tumbler connected to 2.3 billion views on TikTok, the Quencher bears the honor of being the “it” water bottle—at least for now.

The commoditization of hydration in general is certainly on the rise: In 2021, the global reusable water bottle market was valued at $8.6 billion and is expected to have an annual growth rate of 4.3 percent until 2030. Stanley's Adventure Quencher is just the latest among water bottles making hydration popular, and logic holds it likely won’t be the last. Other vessels have enjoyed their 15 minutes (or so) of fame in the past decade.

Consider the motivational Hydromate, a $23 half-gallon plastic jug proclaiming inspirational missives like “Keep drinking,” favored by celebs like Kendall Jenner. In 2019, the Hydro Flask (from $30), a vacuum-sealed stainless steel water bottle, became popular for being the must-have accessory of trendy young people dubbed “VSCO teens." And in the 2010s, slim, steel S’well bottles (from $25), were what many companies and brands doled out as adorable and useful swag. (I collected my fair share as digital media editor during these years.)

Water bottles have been around in some form for as long as there’s been water, but they’ve taken on new meaning thanks to mainstream culture’s renewed focus on the connection between hydration being healthy.

The humble water bottle has become a status symbol, an item that signals to the world that its owner gets it—no matter what “it” actually is. And although water bottles have been around in some form for as long as there’s been water, they’ve taken on new meaning thanks to mainstream culture’s renewed focus on the connection between hydration being healthy.

The "hot" water bottle is good for our health

“Staying hydrated is super important because it helps with how your body functions, regulating your body temperature, keeping your organs functioning properly, and getting nutrients to your cells,” says Vik Jayadeva, MD, a primary-care doctor in Los Angeles. “It can also help with your mood and attention during the day, how you sleep at night, [support] better-looking skin, and can even reduce the chance of getting a urinary tract infection.” Dehydration, on the other hand, can lead to a slew of issues like fatigue, confusion, or dizziness. So, where do water bottles come in for making hydration popular?

“Keeping your bottle close makes it less challenging to drink, and acts as a constant reminder of your hydration goals,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Drinking consistently throughout the day provides better hydration than drinking a large amount in one sitting, so having your bottle nearby and taking sips throughout the day is the best way to rehydrate.”

She adds that the heightened interest in hydration is linked to an uptick in trendy water bottles with high-tech features. “They keep your watercooler for longer and maintain temperature, are easier to clean, and can clip onto most bags.”

Plus, says Reilly, “having [a water bottle] that you have an emotional attachment to and one that is actually enjoyable to drink from helps encourage hydrating throughout the day.” It becomes something that you bring with you, no matter what.

The mental-health case for the emotional support water bottle (ESWB)

“Many jokingly call Hydro Flask bottles their ‘emotional support water bottle’ because of how dependable they have become in their lives,” says Yiorgos Makris, Director of Marketing at Hydro Flask. “We’ve found that our consumers don’t leave the house without four things: their phone, wallet, keys and their Hydro Flask bottle.”

“We’ve found that our consumers don’t leave the house without four things: their phone, wallet, keys and their Hydro Flask bottle.” —Yiorgos Makris, Director of Marketing at Hydro Flask

TikTok has been a breeding ground for the idea of a “emotional support water bottle,” aka a bottle you must bring everywhere with you in order to feel safe and ensure you will stay hydrated no matter if you’re at the doctor’s office or on a rigorous hike. Influencer Christina Najjar, also known as Tinx, has said her ESWB“changed her life.”

While the thought of emotional support objects may conjure images like a childhood blanket or stuffed animal, psychotherapist Whitney Goodman, LMFT, says it’s not uncommon for things like water bottles to bring their owners security. “People can become attached to a particular item and looking at it, holding it, or knowing you have it with you can provide some type of comfort,” she says. “It may reduce your anxiety or calm certain fears you have about being in a particular environment.”

The physiological- and mental-health payoffs that trendy water-bottle sippers enjoy is great, but the rise of such products, like the Stanley Quencher or the Hydro Flask, often come through a completely separate channel: influencers or celebrities.

The healthy payoff of the water bottles making hydration popular

“Our hydration category success has come mostly from word of mouth magnified by thousands of authentic fans on social media,” says Reilly. The Quencher waitlist reached 150,000 at its peak and Reilly says most of those buyers found Stanley through social media. “Water bottles are relatively accessible [purchases],” says Danielle Prescod, co-owner of the diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy agency 2BG; author of Token Black Girl; and influencer.

When she started working at home in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Prescod realized she needed to consciously drink more water without having an office watercooler to visit. Since she was no longer passively hydrating while engaging in small talk with co-workers, so she bought a Hydromate and began posting on Instagram about it. At first it was just a fun way to keep hydrated, but when she posted videos and images of her drinking from the bottle, she realized that so many of her followers wanted to buy one, too. Prescod shared affiliate links for her followers to purchase the bottle, and soon started seeing it everywhere—even on celebrities' grids. And it hasn't stopped even has pandemic restrictions have loosened.

“When there are bags or luxury beauty items that cost upwards of $300, that can be alienating to a lot of the population,” says Prescod. “But if you see a celebrity taking [a small accessory] to their hot Pilates class, it becomes more appealing because it’s like, Wow, I can own something that this girl I idolize has. She lives a life I’ll never have, but I can have the same water bottle.

Plus, there’s also the idea that if you see someone of influence or supposed high status toting around a water bottle and they look healthy, consumers might associate being healthy with that item. Regardless of the degree of truth behind that presumption, the effect can be net positive. “A lot of people also have the understanding that drinking water is good for you, but it's not that sexy,” says Prescod. “The more appealing you can make it, the better it is.”

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