Not all bottled water is the same, as the varying price tags suggest. Even within the category of unflavored water, there’s bulk water and then there’s value-added water. Value-added water — which is purified water that contains additional vitamins, nutrients, and minerals — is considered to be in the same realm as other health and wellness beverages.
In 2016, value-added water increased by 12.3% in volume, according to a study by the Beverage Marketing Association (BMA). According to BMA’s current projection, value-added water could grow by 10% in 2017.
Gary Hemphill of BMA told Yahoo Finance that companies, like Coca-Cola (KO) and Pepsico (PEP), are deep into bulk-water packaging with regular bottled water like Dasani and Aquafina. However, the margins for regular bottled water are low. Through value-added water, like Coca-Cola’s Glacéau Smartwater and Pepsico’s LIFEWTR, these companies can take advantage of their bulk-water packaging capabilities while also charging premium prices.
Is value-added worth the cost?
Additional ingredients in value-added water justify the higher prices than regular bottled water.
A 20-ounce bottle of Dasani is $1.51, a 1-liter bottle is $1.60, and a 1.5-liter bottle is $2.30. Meanwhile, the suggested retail prices for a bottle of Smartwater (a value-added water) put a 20-ounce bottle at $1.79, 1-liter at $2.10 and a 1.5-liter at $2.57.
For a 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina, you’ll pay $1.29. Meanwhile, a bottle of LIFEWTR (another smart water) is available in two sizes — the 700-milliliter bottle has a suggested retail price of $2.06 and the 1-liter bottle is $2.70. According to Lisa Moskovitz, CEO & founding dietitian of the New York Nutrition Group, value-added waters may be an unnecessary cost since the average adult doesn’t require them.
However, she told Yahoo Finance, “If you are someone who struggles to get in all your food groups everyday then drinking a more nutrient-dense water will help fill in the gaps.”
Moskovitz also points out that these type of waters can benefit consumers who exercise for long periods of time and need extra hydration.
Perhaps consumers are also paying more for fancy marketing. Indeed, Smart Water prides itself on its sleek and modern packaging. Meanwhile, LIFEWTR aims to be a source of inspiration for artists, which has appeal for some consumers.
“I love the unique design and artwork LIFEWTR uses on their bottles,” Moriah Schiewe, a current law student at DePaul University’s College of Law, told Yahoo Finance. She adds, “If I’m going to drink water, I might as well enjoy some art too.”
Water sommelier calls this the ‘fast-food’ of water
Though value-added water may seem like high-end hydration, Martin Riese, a water sommelier, thinks otherwise.
“In my opinion these waters are nothing else than the ‘fast food’ of waters,” Riese told Yahoo Finance. “For me as a water sommelier, I would never buy or drink these kind of waters. I do not like to eat processed food; therefore I do not like a highly processed beverage: purified water.”
Riese believes the best type of bottled waters are not value-added waters, but rather spring waters. He suggests that consumers spend their money on bottled water that comes from natural springs, which contain their own composition of naturally occurring electrolytes and minerals. Bottled brands of this type include, but are not limited to, Fiji, Aqua Carpatica, and Mountain Valley Springs.
Tara Condell of Top Balance Nutrition believes the human body can regulate pH levels on its own and that the average person already gets a sufficient amount of electrolytes without value-added water.
Condell told Yahoo Finance, “‘Value-added’ waters are better referred to as a creative marketing concept rather than having health benefits.”
Brooke DiPalma is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeDiPalma
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