What Makes SmartWater Smart?

SmartWater is a brand of bottled water produced by the Glaceau company — the same company that makes those colorful VitaminWaters.  I was surprised to learn Glaceau is a subsidiary of Coca-Cola.  But what makes SmartWater so special?  Is it really any different from regular water?  Here’s what we know:

  • SmartWater is “vapor distilled” water.  From what I can understand, pretty much all water is vapor distilled, meaning it originally came from clouds.
  • According to their website, most SmartWater is procured from “municipal water systems.”  Read, “tap water.”
  • Then the SmartWater goes through Glaceau’s proprietary filtration process, that removes just about everything from the water except two H’s and an O.
  • SmartWater then adds back in the electrolytes calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and potassium bicarbonate “for taste.”  I think the “for taste” part is important because the nutrition label still reads 0 mg of sodium, and the amounts of electrolytes added have essentially zero “gatorade-effect”.  In fact, the amount of electrolytes found in SmartWater is less than in other brands of “non-electrolyte-added” bottled waters.  Two independent taste-testers (Bryn and I) could not taste any difference between SmartWater and Brita-filtered tap water.
  • They write in all lower case letters, which definitely seems trendy even if not necessarily “smart.”

It seems like the water in the SmartWater bottle isn’t anything amazing.  It’s not going to raise your IQ or replenish your body of lost nutrients any more than any other water would.

So what really makes SmartWater smart?

Its business of course!

  • Globally, bottled water is a $100 billion dollar industry.
  • Glaceau has found a “smart” way to buy tap water for a national average price of $0.002/gallon, clean it up, and sell it for more than $5/gallon.  A 250,000% markup makes for an insanely profitable business.
  • By calling it SmartWater, Glaceau is basically calling every other bottled water brand StupidWater.  If you’re buying bottled water (arguably not the smartest activity to begin with), are you going to pick the regular bottled water or the SmartWater?  Good choice, Einstein.

13 thoughts on “What Makes SmartWater Smart?

  1. Hi,

    I just wanted to say that vapor distilled means that the water was boiled, then cooled in a condenser. It’s the exact same process that makes clouds, only faster. The advantages are that it doesn’t require special filters, just a heat source, holding tank, and a condenser (usually a tank of water with a coil of copper pipe running through it). It’s a cheap and effective way of producing very clean water.

    Just found your website today, and I’m loving it. It’s nice to have some one deconstruct marketing tactics.

  2. I think, like most food/drink items, and energy items, etc the user or consumer is getting the most because of the psychological consumer bias that comes from a bottle or can that says it makes you sleep better or feel better. It may have nothing different but smart water can seriously effect a person of they believe. Yes it may sound cheesy but it’s true.

    • You are referring to the placebo effect. Two patients with pain problems are given two identical pills, but one pill is the actual pain medication, the other is simple a tasteless tablet. It’s a clinical study to see if the mind is powerful enough to make the body feel better if it is tricked in to thinking that it is actually treated.

      However, the clinical studies of placebo have not exactly given negative or positive results, as they tend to be mixed, especially in larger groups.

  3. My personal experience. Make what you will of it but understand I am still undecided as to the cause of the effects I have noticed. Here’s what happened. I am 54. I’ve spent years working only 8 hours a day, no weekends and little exercise otherwise. Now, I am having to put in mild physical labor for 10 to 12 hours a day and Saturday. After about 2 weeks of this, all I wanted to do was pass out and go to the hospital! Then, one lunchtime, I tried a liter of Smartwater (thinking it was cheaper than Dasani). At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I had to crawl to my car and when I got home, I didn’t immediately pass out into a painful stupor. I thought I must be getting used to things. I don’t normally drink liters of water so the next day I had a soft drink and several cups of water. At the end of the day, I felt like (enter your own word for “BAD” here). The 3rd day, 2 liters of Smartwater with similar results to the first day. Is it the electrolytes? Perhaps just proper hydration? All I know is I felt much better and Smartwater is the difference to my normal routine. As I said, I bought it based on price alone, although I later realized it costs more. I got a lot of jokes from my friends about the name asking “does it work?”. That’s the first time I paid attention to the bottle and thought “man, they’ll do anything to sell water”. I’ll likely try another bottle.

    • Just a followup note to my earlier comment.
      No more remarkable results from drinking Smart Water. The additives make the taste better than distilled which seems a bit lifeless. The manufacturer starts with a blank and adds a nice recipe for taste; perhaps, there-in lies the wisdom? Important to me is it lacks the ‘earthiness’ of spring waters.
      Face it; advertisers have milliseconds to grab your attention. I had a street vendor yell that her leather items were “smooth as” ‘a part of Britney Spears anatomy’ – she got my attention, her originality bought 5 minutes of my time. Her product was good – I wasn’t in the market – BUT, I did look. That’s effective advertising! Even if Smart Waters hook didn’t work in my case, it ‘is’ good and I ‘am’ in the market. Am I smarter? I keep telling myself what a dummy I am for buying it – although I’ve yet to find a comparison. I’ve been convinced it’s unique; which, in the end, is where the rubber meets the road.

      • Yeah. Okay, so I’m on a roll. Actually, I’m just bored with my projects, my entertainment and my dog – my mind wanders. Some thoughts on manufacturing.
        Vapor Distillation. Simply put, heat water to a gas (steam), collect the gas, cool it back to a liquid. The gas can’t carry any of the crud from the water so the result is pure or ‘empty’ water. Simple. Right? By the way, that’s why distilled water tastes so bland. It’s empty.
        Consider the words “heat” and “cool”. That requires energy. Have you ever went on vacation and turned off your hot water heater and air conditioner? Man wasn’t that a nice utility bill? Multiply that savings by a number large enough to produce enough distilled water to sell over a few years. Hmmm. Profit margin is not looking quite as profitable. What the heck! We’ll get by.
        Okay, the recipe for taste. A little of this, some of that and a touch of that other stuff. Boy, this tastes great. Now let’s buy enough for production. GEEZ! These guys are quite proud of their stuff! Ok. I’ll buy in bulk. You want HOW MUCH to ship it to me??? Hmmm, a little more off that margin.
        Let’s see; we need a snappy label and theme to really catch peoples attention and convince them that “Ours is the Best”. WHAT? I have to buy HOW MANY to economically absorb the design and set up fees? Wow! for just a label. Honey? – have you ever heard of “a second mortgage”?
        Okay. Manufacturing process is worked out. Bottles and caps are cheap – until you buy a b’zillion. I wonder how much a blow mold machine costs – never mind, I’m low on heart pills. And the energy required to sterilize things! Can you say “small city”? FDA, OSHA, Insurance, etc. Sigh it’s not called a ‘margin’ for nothing. Marginal is more like it.
        Okay. Bulk packaging to the distributor. Dang! more plastic. How much is oil selling for these days?
        Okay. Distribution pipeline requires bulk storage on this end. Man! Where am I gonna put all this stuff? I’m going to have to rent a warehouse! Sigh! Ka-ching!
        Freight costs? I know water is heavy!
        Bar Graph! That’s it. Break it all down! Work it out! Chart it out! Where the heck is the profit??? What? I thought that was a hair stuck to the bottom of the chart!
        Just do a Lobotomy on me now please.
        Well, I hope you got a chuckle out of this. I’m no expert and likely didn’t mention a tenth of the fun and challenges required to bring a new product to market but you get the idea.
        Kind of makes me wonder how they sell it for 2 bucks!

  4. My first time on a blog! Hoping this water was smart. Need electrolytes, sodium etc but hate sweetened enhanced water drinks. Is there anything out there for someone who needs to limit fluid intake and hates the sweet stuff? And hates the environmental mess all that plastic creates.

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