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A Definitive Timeline of Every Trendy Water Bottle

Bottled water is nothing new. While it’s hard to nail down exactly when the very first water bottle was invented, packaging water for transportation dates all the way back to ancient times. But in the 1940s, that industry was transformed thanks to the creation of the plastic bottle, which allowed for more commercial production and distribution. By the 1970s, scientist Nathaniel Wyeth discovered a means of molding polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which made plastic bottles more durable, cheaper, and easier to shape.

It didn’t take long for the environmental impact of these plastic bottles to become obvious. Harmful fossil fuels are required for their production, and the sheer amount of plastic ending up in landfills and oceans is overwhelming. Come the late 1990s and early 2000s, scientists and governments around the world were raising their concern about the harmful chemicals leaching into drinks stored in plastic, along with the increased presence of microplastics and their impacts on marine life. And as consumers grew more conscious about their plastic usage, brands responded with the introduction of reusable water bottles. The first, the Nalgene, was created in the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the mid-2010s that these more sustainable options became a fixture of wellness culture.

Now, walk into any sporting goods store or Target today and you’ll discover a sea of options lining the shelves in myriad shapes, sizes, and colors. But these eco-conscious bottles, like all consumer goods, are beholden to the trend cycle. And thanks to social media, these reusable bottles have quickly become a status symbol, with a new covetable option rising above the rest every few years.

In recent memory, several brands have shot to the top of consumers’ wishlists (looking at you, Hydro Flask), only to be replaced a short while later by the Next Big Thing (cough, cough, Stanley). S’wells and Yetis once led the pack, too. To fully understand the rise of the reusable bottle, we’ve created a timeline that reveals when every “it” water bottle brand became the coolest kid in school.

Will another fresh brand capture the public’s favor soon? Probably. And while these new players might convince shoppers they should purchase yet another bottle to stay up to date, it’s not always necessary to give in to consumerism. The best reusable water bottle is simply the one you will use, and they’re typically designed to last for years.

Without further ado, our timeline of the world’s most trendy water bottles.

Nalgene: 1970s-early 2000s

Chemist Emanual Goldberg first developed the Nalgene water bottle as a means of making lab equipment less fragile. Goldberg — who also developed the world’s first plastic pipette — founded the Nalge Company in 1949 and got to work formulating plastic bottles with screw-on lids for scientists to use while conducting experiments. The design was revolutionary: Not only was the plastic more durable and at less risk for breaking, but the vessels were lighter than their glass forefathers, and their sealable lids prevented leakage and held in foul odors. In the 1960s, outdoor scientists started bringing Nalgene bottles along with them on backpacking trips, and campers quickly caught on.

As the “Leave No Trace” philosophy — which argues that every natural site should be left exactly the way it was found — took hold in the 1970s, Nalgene bottles shifted from a lab necessity to the outdoorsman’s best friend. The Boy Scouts of America even used the bottles on group camping trips to store pancake mix, water, and supplies. This inspired Marsh Hyman, the Nalge Company’s then-president and father of a Boy Scout, to market the bottles as must-have camping gear. Ever since, the Nalgene has been associated with the nature-loving crowd.

Camelbak Eddy: 2010-2016

If you were in high school when “Super Bass” was topping the charts, you likely remember the Camelbak Eddy. More specifically, you probably remember the sheer number of classmates chewing on the vessel’s signature bite-and-sip straw as they battled through first period. This once-coveted container soared in popularity at the same time reusable bottles took off as a lifestyle trend, making it one of the first status-symbol bottles on the market.

The Camelbak Eddy remains popular to this day, and the brand has evolved with consumer interests to offer stainless steel and glass versions of the same bottle — though it hasn’t kept up with the trending bottles of today.

S’well: 2016-2019

Many credit S’well with transforming the water bottle business into one driven largely by appearances. Launched in 2010 by Sarah Kauss (who sold the business in 2022), the brand sought to fill a perceived gap in the market for aesthetically pleasing bottles.

The businesswoman told CNBC in 2019 that prior to creating S’well, she was frustrated with the basic design of her reusable bottles, calling them  something that “looked like a camping accessory [and not] something [she] would want to leave on the table.” Plus, the vast majority of products in the category were made of plastic, not insulated stainless steel. S’well changed that, debuting a variety of tall, screw-top vessels that mimicked the silhouette of wine bottles. They were all the rage. By 2016, S’well was raking in over $100 million in revenue. Three years later, the company announced it had sold 20 million bottles worldwide. It also didn’t hurt that S’wells were perfect for inconspicuous alcohol consumption. Fans quickly realized the line’s 25-ounce option could perfectly hold the standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine.

Despite their moment in the spotlight, the S’wells’ popularity faded. Connie Pechmann, a marketing professor at UC Irvine’s business school, explained to The Los Angeles Times that it was likely because the mouth of the bottles was too small to fit ice cubes. She also argued that the product’s smaller shape allowed for it to be tucked away in backpacks, opening the door for a sizable new water bottle to slip into the hands of high schoolers everywhere: the Hydro Flask.

Hydro Flask: 2019-2021

Ah, the Hydro Flask. Created by Travis Rosbach and Cindy Weber in 2009 in Bend, Or., the brand was initially beloved by the outdoorsy crowd — but that all changed when the iconic bottles hit social feeds. In 2019, TikTokkers all over the world embraced the insulated stainless steel water bottle, largely for its association with the “VSCO girl” trend, named for the popular photo editing app. Accompanied by big T-shirts, scrunchies, and overly saturated Instagram photos with #savetheturtles in their captions, the Hydro Flask signaled that its owner was fashionable and environmentally conscious — and purchasing one meant you could be, too.

According to Google Trends data, Hydro Flask searches soared in July and August 2019 before peaking that September — the same few months the VSCO girl ruled social feeds. But what really made the Hydro Flask stand out was its ability to be carried around more readily than its predecessors: Each one boasts a handle that allows for easy transport and allows the bottle to double as a fashion accessory. Rather than stashing the bottles away in backpacks, the cool kids were carrying them around in their hands, which made a statement about their status and encouraged others to follow suit.

Yeti Rambler: 2020-2022

The stainless-steel Yeti Rambler quietly dominated the category during the early pandemic. With strawed and strawless options able to keep liquids cold for a whopping three days, it’s no surprise that the brand took off around the same time as the Hydro Flask. Google searches for “Yeti water bottle” soared at the end of 2019 and peaked in July 2022.

While it’s less buzzy in pop culture these days, there’s no denying the Yeti’s continued popularity: A 2024 study by T-shirt company Custom Ink showed that most consumers they analyzed own a Yeti or other brands like Stanley and Hydro Flask.

Simple Modern: 2021-2022

While Simple Modern may not be as popular as big names on this list, the brand had a moment a couple years back. Founded in Oklahoma in 2015, the line boasts tall, sleek, strawed water bottles that promise to keep liquid cold for 24 hours. Pegged by social users as “the adult sippy cup,” the bottles are only $24, making them one of the most affordable on this list. The brand got an enormous boost during the pandemic from Victoria’s Secret models and influencers like Tinx who endorsed its Insulated Tumbler Cups, which are available in a number of colors and patterns.

Google searches for the brand climbed steadily over 2021 and 2022, and sales followed. Simple Modern cups have over 22,000 reviews on Amazon, making the brand the second best-selling insulated tumbler on the platform, behind only Stanley.

Stanley: 2022-2024

If you haven’t heard of the Stanley cup (and we’re not talking about hockey here), we hope rent is cheap beneath the rock you’re living under. Despite the company being over a century old, its Quencher line has sent social media ablaze thanks to a tsunami of influencer marketing. In 2020, Terence Reilly — formerly of Crocs — took over the brand’s strategy side and made sure the cups ended up in the hands of the right people. Influencers from every corner of the market endorsed the cup, and their audiences followed. In 2021, Stanley’s revenue hit $194 million, and by 2022, it had more than doubled to $402 million. The next year, revenue swelled again with Forbes reporting that the brand’s sales increased to a whopping $750 million.

To date, #Stanley has over 7.2 billion views on TikTok, and the brand has continued to have massive amounts of success. The coveted Starbucks x Stanley Quencher partnership which had fans camping outside shops for a chance to snag one. The Stanley Cup hasn’t come without its fair share of criticism, though, with critics pointing to fans’ rampant overconsumption of the cups. Some Stanley Cup buyers own not one but dozens, and children have even been bullied in school for not having a tumbler of their own.

Owala: Present

Founded in 2020 at the peak of water bottle mania, Owala has been creeping higher in popularity, likely due to its marketing as a more affordable Stanley alternative. Owala’s most popular bottle — a 40-ounce tumbler — is a direct competitor to Stanley’s Quencher cup, and has been nicknamed by some as “The New Stanley.”

Among the features attracting consumers to the bottles are their vibrant colorways. With their clean, leak-proof designs, sleek shape, and eye-grabbing colors, the products have garnered thousands of reviews on TikTok, with almost everyone raving that it “lives up to the hype.”

Move over Stanley, there’s a new bottle in town.

*Image retrieved from Naomichi via stock.adobe.com

The article A Definitive Timeline of Every Trendy Water Bottle appeared first on VinePair.

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