Which country was the first to start selling bottled mineral water?

Which is it?

The United Kingdom was the first country to bottle water for sale at the Holy Well plant in 1621. The practice of bottling mineral spring water then radically spread throughout Europe and the United States. It was believed that natural springs have therapeutic and healing effects, which is why it has been sold in pharmacies as a medicinal remedy even until the 1900s.

In the United States, it was in 1767 when the first commercially distributed bottled water was made and sold by Jackson’s Spa situated in Boston. Drinkers of the said bottled spa waters deemed that it possesses therapeutic benefits, and bathing or drinking the water from the mineral spring could aid in curing many common diseases.

With that, trips to natural spas and springs have become a trend among the rich people until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1844, Hiram Ricker, a Maine innkeeper who was already lying at his deathbed, claimed that the local spring water in their property cured his illness. Due to the said remarkable feat, it became very popular, and the inn was then converted to a resort. The family then started to sell the water under the name of Poland Spring to the visitors. The said brand first sold 3-gallon glass bottled mineral water in 1845.

Meanwhile, in France, waters from the natural springs, such as Perrier, Vittel, and Evian, became renowned in the dawn of the 20th century. People, who believed the waters’ curing properties, brought supplies of water for their continued use. With that, a demand developed, which was then fulfilled by pharmacies. The industry stayed at a small scale until the 1960s. The system shifted when large-scale entities like supermarkets and hypermarkets surfaced, raising the demand for different types of commodities. This development allowed the movement of bottled mineral waters from pharmacies to big grocery stores.

Bottled waters had risen to popularity radically and gave birth to a new lineage of imitation products. Carbonated waters emerged and gave mineral bottled waters a unique fizz. Joseph Hawkins secured the first patent in the United States for the imitation mineral water in 1809. As advancement in technology continued in the 19th century, the cost for glass production significantly lowered, and the speed of bottling vastly improved, allowing bottled water to be reproduced on a larger scale and other beverages to prosper.

Up until the 19th century, bottled mineral water has been the safer choice for most people as contaminated with harmful pathogens, such as typhoid and cholera. In the mid-1900s, Saratoga Springs, one of the renowned bottlers in the United States, was already producing around 7 million bottled mineral water each year.

However, the demand for bottled water in the United States fell come in the early 20th century as the start of water chlorination enters the picture. Concerns about harmful water-borne illnesses were reduced as the municipal water supply has been treated.

Meanwhile, in Europe, bottled mineral water continued to rise in popularity as it started to penetrate more supermarkets, grocery stores, and even cafes in the latter part of the century. Perrier, the French brand, made an advertisement campaign in the United States, reviving the demand for bottled mineral water in the country.

French companies also began to extend their advertising and branding efforts in the 1960s. However, companies focused on a different approach. While Perrier centered on a young and fun image, Evian directed their sales towards the bottled water for infants. Moreover, Evian started highlighting ‘purity’ in their advertising campaigns but shifted to the idea of ‘everyday use’ few years after as it moved to target the large retail market.

It was only in 1973 when Nathanial Wyeth, a DuPont engineer, patented PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. It was the first plastic bottle to endure pressure brought by carbonated liquids. Up until today, PET bottles are the preferred choice as containers as they are resistant to breakage and more lightweight compared to their glass counterparts. The introduction of plastic bottles allowed bottling of larger water volumes, such as 1.5-liter bottles, which is the widely-used size in most markets.

Today, bottled water remains one of the leading commercial drinks in the United States, with about half of the soft drinks consumption in the country.

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