Sparkling water (also known as “bubble water”) is exploding in grocery stores around the world (not literally — you know what we mean). At nearly 30% year over year, the sparkling water industry is taking over the bottled-drink industry as a whole.
What’s so appealing about sparkling water? For starters, it’s more than just bubbles and burps. Sparkling waters can contain everything from fruit juice flavor to caffeine and even antioxidants! Often viewed as a positive alternative (but equally bubbly) alternative to soda, sparkling water sales are skyrocketing.
How are they doing it? And most importantly, which brands are worth buying? We’re going to break it all down in this episode of Products Worth Talking About.
Here are the brands we’re testing in this bubbly episode:
In the first section of this sparkling review, we’re going to taste-test each product and talk a little bit about their company backgrounds. Then, we’ll dive into their websites and social media strategies to determine if their marketing strategy is as air-tight as their tastes. Lastly, we’ll give our final ratings and determine which sparkling water brand takes the crown.
Let’s get started!
Topo Chico sparkling water is one of the only brands you can find in a classic bottle — and that certainly brings a nostalgic, summer feel. RT said it makes him feel special when he has to use a can opener to get into something — a Topo Chico sparkling water is one of those things!
The flavor we tried was their “Twist of Lime,” which Tyler described as “tastes like a 7up without the sugar.” While RT liked the fizziness, he thought that the lime was a little bit overbearing and preferred their regular carbonated mineral water.
Overall, while we didn’t hate the “Twist of Lime,” we thought that the flavor could use some work to taste less like stagnant 7up with no sugar. If you’re looking for a quality carbonated water, though, Topo Chico is a great choice!
You can buy an assorted six-pack for Topo Chico Twist of Lime and Mineral Water (12oz per bottle) for $18.31 on Amazon.
Out of the three brands we examined, Topo Chico has been around the longest, founded in 1895. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to track down who the founders were, but if you know, feel free to leave a comment under the video!
On LinkedIn, they have approximately 50 employees, and they were acquired by Coca-Cola in 2017 for $220 million. They’re currently working with Coca-Cola to launch a hard seltzer, which we both thought would do very well in a nostalgic glass bottle — it would stand out from the typical hard seltzers you find in cans.
For Hiball, we had a variety of flavors to test, including Wildberry, Vanilla Water, and Grapefruit. Each drink includes caffeine — about 260 grams — Ginseng, and Guruana. Essentially, one 12oz can of Hiball sparkling water is like 2-3 coffees, so keep that in mind before drinking another.
We’ll start with the Vanilla Water — Tyler was not a fan of this one. He described it as melted ice cream mixed with soda water. Not too appetizing unless you’re into that sort of thing.
RT tried the Grapefruit and was surprised how clear the sparkling water was — no pink tone at all. This is due to its “natural flavoring,” but we both agreed that it would look more natural if it was actually the color of grapefruit.
Overall, we thought the flavors were underwhelming, but the caffeine was a smart additive — if you’re trying to cut out coffee (like RT is), Hiball sparkling water could be a good caffeine substitute! It’s a relatively clean product as well, so you won’t be ingesting anything too bad for you.
On Amazon, you can purchase an assorted eight pack of 16 fl oz cans for just $19.68!
Diving into the company background, we found that Hiball was founded in 2005 by Todd Beradi, and on Hiball’s LinkedIn, he’s their one and only listed employee. That’s probably inaccurate — other sources indicate they probably have around 20 to 30 employees.
The company was sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2017, and while we weren’t able to find the amount of the sale, we guess it was definitely in the millions.
One interesting fact is that Todd, the founder, started selling Hiball sparkling water out of the back of his car. It’s a true “rags to riches” entrepreneur story — one that we both appreciate since RT started Vortic Watches and Tyler started REBL Jane.
RT’s a huge fan of Spindrift. HUGE.
His favorite product of theirs is the Iced Tea Lemonade, but since that’s technically not sparkling water, we had to take it out of the competition. Spindrift does make a variety of sparkling water flavors though, including Lime, Grapefruit, Cranberry Raspberry, and more!
When you pour Spindrift into a glass cup, it looks like someone took fizzy water and crushed a huge fruit in it. We both loved this approach — it’s way more natural, being made from 10% juice. Plus, the flavors are rich but not overpowering, which is what you want in sparkling water.
In fact, RT loves Spindrift sparkling water so much that he’s subscribed on Amazon and receives monthly shipments to Vortic Watch Company — literally pallets of sparkling water every month. The Amazon delivery guy probably hates him.
Like RT, you can buy Spindrift sparkling water on Amazon (a variety 20 pack is $22.36), but it’s also available at your local Costco or Sam’s Club.
In 2010, Spindrift was founded by Bill Creelman in Waltham, Massachusetts. On LinkedIn, they have 102 listed employees, so it’s the largest of the companies that we looked at this round. However, they’re still a private company, with a recorded funding amount of at least $70 million. In 2019, they made at least $37.4 million in sales.
Spindrift was named after that refreshing spray that blows off of a breaking wave — now, just imagine that spray was 1) drinkable 2) fruit-flavored. That’s Spindrift — America’s first sparkling water brand that contained real fruit inside.
Now that we’ve covered the product reviews and company backgrounds of these sparkling water brands, it’s time to delve into what we entrepreneurs love most — branding, websites, and marketing strategies.
After taking all of these statistics and our subjective opinions into account, we give our final score — the Beer Score (AKA which founder we want to find and have a beer with).
Topo Chico scored a 9 from both of us on product design/packaging. You can’t beat that classic glass bottle look — it’s nostalgic, traditional, and invokes quality. When you open one of these bottles, you feel pretty special. Hiball and Spindrift’s packaging wasn’t bad, but there’s something about a canned drink that just feels unhealthy, even if it’s not! RT gave Spindrift an 8 on packaging because they include colors and pictures of what’s inside, making it abundantly clear that you’re drinking healthy sparkling water.
This one was tough to score since each brand doesn’t really stand out on social, so they ended up scoring equally — between a 7 and an 8.
We typically dig into the websites with software such as JungleScout and SpyFu to determine their sales conversions, but you would typically buy these sparkling waters at the grocery store and not online. The only thing we could look at was their Amazon sales, and we saw that Spindrift has the best Amazon Store. We both gave Spindrift and Hiball a 9, while Topo Chico fell behind.
Lastly, we scored each brand based on their disruptive appeal — how they stand out from other brands and catch our attention. Topo Chico is about 120 years old, and we imagine that back in 1890, putting carbonated water in a bottle was pretty insane. We definitely agree that Topo Chico was highly disruptive in its time but not as much today. We agreed that Hiball is disrupting the sparkling water industry by adding caffeine into their drinks. We both gave Hiball an 8 for disruptive level. However, Spindrift took the lead in this category since they use real fruit juice in their products, earning themselves a 9.
After tallying up our scores, we were finally able to determine which brand was best…
Maybe RT’s enthusiasm and monthly subscription gave it away, but we concluded without a doubt that Spindrift was the best sparkling water brand in our opinion. Here were the final scores tallied up…
Honestly, any one of these brands would be a great choice for a hot day on the beach (maybe with some vodka added?), but we both agreed that Spindrift rose above the rest with its packaging, real fruit ingredients, and amazing website. Next time you go to the grocery store, make sure to pick up a pack! Or, if you want to go all-in, you can order pallets of Spindrift on Amazon like RT.
If you decide to try one of these products, we would love to hear from you! Take a screenshot of the episode and share your greatest takeaways with us on Instagram, @productsworthtalkingabout. And if you love the show, make sure to subscribe on YouTube so that you can get new content delivered to you directly! Let us know what products and brands you want us to review!
On Products Worth Talking About, our mission is to not only give you reliable information on disruptive products but also give you valuable insight into what makes great businesses successful! If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to build a product-based business, check out our business plan that literally writes itself! Within no time, you’ll be ready to pitch to investors and start the company of your dreams.
See you next time!
RT and Tyler