The idea that some types of water could be better for you than others might have consumers a bit baffled, but a niche segment of the bottled water category is beginning to gain some ground. Alkaline water or ionized water isn’t a new idea. It’s been around for quite some time. However, it is getting some more recognition as new products tout their high pH levels and claim they are healthier to drink than tap water or water with a neutral pH of 7 (a pH lower than 7 is acidic and a pH higher than 7 is alkaline).
The claim behind alkaline water is that it neutralizes the acid in the body, acting as an antioxidant. The jury is still out on the efficacy of drinking these waters, but there is a buzz on the market and consumers seem to be latching on.
“I’ve seen more and more alkaline water producers showcasing their products at various trade shows, but it appears that with regard to bottled water in particular and health and wellness in general, manufacturers are always looking for different hooks for consumers,” notes Jonas Feliciano, beverage analyst for Euromonitor International. “Alkaline water seems to fall into that whether or not there are some consumers that are a bit wary of it.”
Essentia super hydrating water has been on the market for more than a decade. Produced by Essentia Water, Inc., based in Bothell, Wash., the bottled water is available nationwide and is sold in natural food stores as well as national grocery chains and online on sites like Amazon. In recent years, the brand has seen sales pick up, according to Paul Curhan, an outside marketing consultant for Essentia, who recently joined the team.
“I think there is more awareness for these higher pH waters,” he says. “Consumers have a better appreciation that not all water is the same just with different packaging. Consumers are shifting to functional beverages, healthier beverages, and we are benefiting from that general shift.”
The company refers to Essentia as a premium, electrolyzed/restructured water that is electrolyte-enhanced with optimum alkalinity and an “ideal pH” of 9.5.
While some waters get their higher pH from added minerals, other waters are chemically altered, like Essentia. Essentia achieves its alkalinity by using Ionic Separation Technology where acidic ions are separated from the alkaline ions and then removed from the water. According to the company, this allows for charged electrolytes, better permeation, and therefore, faster hydration.
Flavor is also a factor with alkaline water.
“It’s purporting a healthier water and also a better tasting water,” says Feliciano. “I’ve seen salesmen or brand representatives promote the high pH level in terms of health, but in actually tasting the water there is a different taste to it. It almost tastes cleaner, more crisp than tap water or a spring water.”
Activate Drinks, a functional water from The Rising Beverage Co. LLC., based in Los Angeles, recently added a high-pH water to its lineup of enhanced waters. Activate Pure Water + Electrolytes has a pH of 8 and was boasts a “unique blend of sodium-free electrolytes” for better hydration. Reza Mirza, president of the company says, “We wanted to be the one brand offering for all the beverage needs,” when asked about the addition to the portfolio. “There are a certain segment of consumers who believe that drinking alkaline water balances out the body.”
The company offers the water in a 1-liter package. Though Mirza doesn’t see this segment of bottled water claiming large amounts of shelf space in the convenience channel, he does recognize that there is a following for this type of product. “Consumers that do consume alkaline water swear by it,” he says, however, “I see it as being more of a niche product.”
The consumer following also includes celebrities and professional athletes. Real Water, owned by Affinitylifestyles.com, Inc., based in Las Vegas, Nev., has been seen in the hands of celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Clint Eastwood. Real Water reaches its pH by using proprietary E2 technology. E2 stands for Electron Energized, the company says, and the technology adds electrons to the water through electrical restructuring.
“We get a tremendous amount of celebrities and athletes that drink our water and my view on that is because if you are a Hollywood movie star you are obsessed with maintaining your looks and health,” says Laurel Fee, vice president of public relations for Real Water.
Another company that has extended its portfolio to include alkaline water is WAT-AAH! Rose Cameron, CEO and founder, recognized that this segment is growing in popularity and wanted to offer moms a variety of bottled waters for their children. “It’s increasingly popular,” she says. Wat-aah’s alkaline water has a pH of more than 8, says Cameron, and is known as “the purple one” among the brand’s consumers.
But functionality comes at a price. These waters are considered premium and are priced competitively. Essentia retails for about $1.99-$2.59 for its 1.5 liter bottle, and the 1-liter retails for about $1.50 and the 20-ounce $1.20.
“Everyone is sort of looking for that hook to charge a little bit more and alkaline water seems to be the next step in that,” says Euromonitor’s Feliciano.