The year was 1996.
Across America, a health craze was sweeping the nation. Gym memberships were soaring, vitamin supplements were flying off shelves, and all anyone wanted to drink was bottled water.
The soda giants were shaking in their boots as Americans turned away from sugary pop in droves.
Tap water was passe too—who knew what was lurking in those old pipes? A new wave of H2O was here to quench people's thirst...the elixir known as bottled water.
Seeing this trend, beverage companies raced to perfect the ultimate health drink—cool, crisp water in a bottle. But one scrappy startup named Glacéau was about to change the game.
They toiled away on a proprietary seven-step purification process, adding in a splash of minerals for the perfect taste.
Then one fateful morning, their creation was ready. With sleek blue labels and stylish bottles, the first batch rolled off the line. Ice Mountain Spring Water had arrived.
When Glacéau launched Ice Mountain in 1996, they knew they had something special on their hands.
One sip and people were hooked—this was the smoothest, cleanest water around.
Within months, Ice Mountain was popping up in trendy cafes and health food stores, gaining a following among the fitness-crazed set. Two years later, Glacéau decided on a rebrand—Ice Mountain became Smartwater, speaking to its unique distillation process.
Americans ate it up—finally a premium, fashionable way to hydrate.
Little did Glacéau know their small startup would turn into a bottled water titan. But Smartwater had laid the groundwork, and their revolution had begun.
As the millennium arrived, there was no turning back—the history of Smartwater would dominate the health beverage scene for decades to come.
Their 1996 debut sparked a phenomenon that made drinking water cool again.
In the late 1990s, Glacéau, the makers of the upstart bottled water brand initially known as Ice Mountain Spring Water, decided a name change was imperative to grow the business. While the product had gained some traction since its 1996 launch, the name was not resonating with target consumers.
As the brand researched the market, it became clear that positioning around health and wellness was critical.
Consumers were increasingly obsessed with functional beverages that offered health benefits.
Glacéau realized the unique vapor-distillation process and added electrolytes gave Smartwater credibility in this area.
So in 1998, the strategic decision was made to rebrand as Smartwater. This name conveyed the science and innovation behind the water while appealing to health-conscious shoppers.
Calling the product “smart” implied it was a smart choice compared to traditional bottled waters.
The rebranding proved tremendously successful.
Over the next decade, Smartwater skyrocketed in sales and brand awareness. The name change ushered in a new era of growth and cemented Smartwater as a leader in the flourishing premium water segment.
Glacéau’s keen understanding of consumer desires and savvy repositioning in 1998 set Smartwater on the path to becoming the giant brand we know today.
By the early 2000s, Smartwater had established itself as a leading premium bottled water brand in the United States.
Riding high on several years of surging demand, Smartwater looked to widen its geographic distribution footprint. The brand set its sights northward, identifying neighboring Canada as an ideal next market to continue its ambitious growth.
In 2001, Smartwater rolled out across Canada, leveraging its position as a fashionable, aspirational product.
This expansion was a strategic play to increase its consumer base and market share in North America.
With its crisp, clean taste and sleek branding, Smartwater tapped into major Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver where stylish, on-the-go professionals appreciated the combination of health and convenience.
The successful 2001 launch into Canada was an early testament to Smartwater’s market savvy and ability to tailor its products to shifting consumer tastes across different geographies.
Over the following decade, Smartwater cemented its status as a leading bottled water brand in Canada, mirroring its tremendous popularity in the US.
By the late 2000s, Smartwater was seeking a way to further elevate its brand profile and connect with consumers on a more emotional level.
As the premium bottled water category became increasingly crowded, Smartwater aimed to maintain its edge through an innovative marketing partnership.
In 2008, Smartwater signed actress Jennifer Aniston as its first global brand ambassador.
Aniston's universally likable persona and all-American charm made her an ideal fit for representing Smartwater's aspirational image. Featuring Aniston in colorful advertising campaigns gave Smartwater a touch of Hollywood star power and glamor.
The strategic partnership with Aniston proved hugely successful, catalyzing Smartwater's growth and building an even stronger association between the brand and health-conscious celebrity culture.
By tapping Aniston as a recurring face for the brand, Smartwater adeptly leveraged celebrity marketing to embed itself deeper into pop culture and the minds of consumers.
The year 2016 marked a major milestone for Smartwater as a brand.
After two decades of cultivating consumer demand, Smartwater's sales reached new heights, catapulting it into the elite circle of America's 5 best-selling bottled waters.
This achievement was no small feat in the beverage industry.
The bottled water market had swelled intensely competitively, with household names like Dasani, Aquafina and Poland Spring holding top spots.
Yet through its differentiated purification process, sleek packaging and savvy marketing, Smartwater broke through to reach the upper echelon.
Becoming a top 5 bottled water brand solidified Smartwater's status as a dominating force, outpacing countless other purified water offerings.
Smartwater's rise reflected evolving consumer preferences for premium hydration and thirst for wellness-oriented lifestyles.
In 2017, The Coca-Cola Company made one of its largest acquisitions ever, purchasing Glacéau, the maker of Smartwater, for a staggering $4.9 billion.
This deal brought the surging Smartwater brand fully into the Coca-Cola family.
Coca-Cola had already owned a majority stake in Glacéau since 2007. But in 2017, Coca-Cola acquired the remaining stake to take full ownership.
For Coca-Cola, it was a strategic power play to capture all of Glacéau's fast-rising brands, especially Smartwater and Vitaminwater.
The blockbuster acquisition demonstrated the breakout success of Smartwater.
In just over two decades, Smartwater had grown from a small startup to a $5 billion juggernaut.
Teaming with Coca-Cola gave Smartwater the vast distribution, resources and marketing muscle to bring its purified water to new heights.
This deal cemented Coca-Cola as a dominant force in the premium water segment while unlocking tremendous future potential for the Smartwater brand worldwide.
By 2020, Smartwater had enjoyed a highly successful 12-year run with actress Jennifer Aniston as its brand ambassador. But the brand knew it needed to evolve with the times and connect with a new generation of consumers.
So in 2020, Smartwater made the strategic decision to transition from Aniston to a new global ambassador: rising star Gal Gadot.
Israeli actress Gadot had skyrocketed to fame in recent years through blockbusters like Wonder Woman.
With her athleticism, worldliness and championing of female empowerment, Gadot provided an alluring new face for Smartwater.
The passing of the torch from Aniston to Gadot marked a new chapter for Smartwater as it aimed to strengthen its brand equity among young, health-driven consumers.
While retaining its premium identity, Smartwater refreshed its ambassadorship to stay culturally relevant.
In 2022, on the heels of naming Gal Gadot its ambassador just two years prior, Smartwater made another bold move by appointing multi-talented young superstar Zendaya as its newest face.
The 26-year-old Zendaya brought her 83 million Instagram followers and activism-oriented sensibilities to the brand.
Additionally in 2022, Smartwater launched its "Smart Solutions: Global Water Challenge" campaign.
Through this initiative, Smartwater aimed to fund innovative technologies and community projects to provide access to high-quality drinking water worldwide.
The appointment of Zendaya and the Global Water Challenge campaign signaled Smartwater's continued evolution as a forward-thinking brand.
By aligning with leading Gen Z talent and championing water solutions on a global scale, Smartwater deftly adapted its brand image to new realities. After over two decades of meteoric rise,
Smartwater remained nimble and trailblazing in the premium water space entering the 2020s.
As of late 2023, Smartwater remains a dominant force in the premium bottled water industry.
The brand has come a remarkably long way since its humble beginnings in 1996.
Through bold marketing, product innovation, and alignment with consumer preferences, Smartwater now sits atop the purified water market as a $1 billion global icon.
Even with competition from the likes of Voss, Essentia, and Core Hydration, Smartwater continues to outpace rivals and satiate consumer thirst for fashionable hydration.
The brand frequently releases new bottle sizes, flavors, and functional formulations that balance science and style.
Nearly 30 years since its founding, Smartwater's formula of sleek packaging, electrolyte-enhanced purification, and culturally relevant brand ambassadors keeps the business growing.
Thanks to the vision of early leaders and consistent rejuvenation, Smartwater is as relevant as ever, delivering crisp, clean hydration around the world.
The brand remains a case study of how long-term thinking, calculated risk-taking, and understanding consumers can build an industry titan.