James Buckley trying to open single-use plastic bottle

Bottled water.

The marketing 'trick' of the century.

How did we reach a point where our planet is being destroyed by a plastic crisis, yet every year 3.5 billion bottles of water are still sold in the UK? The answer? We’ve been ‘tricked’. Think about it. In the UK, we have some of the best quality drinking water in the world, yet we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that bottled water is our best option.  

Whether it’s celebrity endorsements, sport sponsorship, or collaborations with the hottest names in fashion, bottled water brands have turned this natural resource into a marketing powerhouse, and in doing so, glossed over their damage to the environment.  

We know ditching bottled water completely isn’t always possible – but, if you want to try and reduce your consumption, there are alternatives out there. If you find yourself reaching for bottled water for a taste preference, think again. BRITA water filters can make your water taste just as good, minus the plastic waste.

With a history of providing innovative drinking solutions, at BRITA we’re clear on the impact and ‘tricks’ of bottled water and how we can help you be just as clear. By investing in a better future, and with the support of our charity partners City to Sea – creators of the Refill campaign – and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and research undertaken with the experts at Retail Economics, join us on our mission to put things right. 

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Fifty years ago, bottled water simply wasn’t a thing. Water came out of the tap, so why would you pay extra for it? There was no demand for it. Until, of course, drinks companies decided to create a demand.  Fast forward to now, and bottled water still, somehow, reigns supreme around the world, leaving in its wake a plastics problem of mountainous proportions. 

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1970s: Perrier sets the stage

It begins with Perrier, who figured water is more fun when it’s fizzy. It spent a  rumoured $5 million on a luxe advertising campaign to convince the world that sparkling water – which it called ‘Earth’s first soft drink’ – was as aspirational way of life and, after the likes of Richard Burton and Farrah Fawcett were linked to the brand, sales skyrocketed to 200 million bottles per year.  

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1980s and 90s: The home of product placement

Bottled water advertising flooded the market (pardon the pun) thanks to the relatively new trend of product placement. Evian popped up in everything from blockbuster movies like You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, to hit TV shows like Friends and Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw was drinking bottled water, so were her fans. 

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2000: Tap water gets trash talked

The bottled water bigwigs were publicly hating on tap water. The soon-to-be chairman of PepsiCo’s beverage and food division publicly declared, "The biggest enemy is tap water”. Not long after, PepsiCo’s bottled Aquafina water was revealed to be… tap water! Awkward.  

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2004: The Oscar goes to… Evian

Bottled water as a status symbol goes into overdrive, in part thanks to Evian’s collaboration with Hollywood publicist Jonathan Cheban, who was creating influencer buzz before influencers existed. A Washington Post article describes how Cheban got Evian to the top of all the hot lists by strategically placing bottles on tables at the Oscars.

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2008: Nestle makes a staggering statement

By 2008, the conversation around the environmental implications of water bottled in single-use plastic was starting to heat up. Nestle Waters Canada reacted by taking out a full-page newspaper advert, outrageously stating: “Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world.” Ummm Greenwashing, much? 

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2008: Water makes a splash in sport sponsorship

Water brands were on a major health and wellness kick. Evian’s sponsorship deal with Wimbledon was an advertising grand slam and other brands took notice. From Vittel and the Tour de France, to Buxton and the London Marathon, a water brand wasn’t worth the plastic it’s bottled in without a sports deal. 

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2019: The internet goes wild for the Fiji Water Girl

Billing itself as ‘Earth’s Finest Water’, Fiji Water leveraged its red-carpet appeal at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, by pledging $1,000 dollars to the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women for every photo taken of a celebrity drinking Fiji Water. But in 2019, it didn’t even bother backing a cause, and simply sent the subsequently meme-ified ‘Fiji Water Girl’ onto the red carpet to photobomb celebrities.  

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2020s: Voss goes viral

By now, everyone knows that plastic = bad, so Norwegian water brand Voss heroically steps in with its bottled water packaged in glass. These sleek bottles have major style appeal, no thanks to Kim Kardashian and social influencer Ryan Dubs. Dubs says that Voss is “carbon neutral” because there’s no plastic packaging involved, but just wait until he finds out about shipping emissions!   



280m additional branded water bottles

will be sold between 2022-2026 without action today.

Over 221,000 additional bottles of branded water

were purchased every day in 2022 due to marketing tricks

90% of plastic bottled water bottles in supermarkets come in a non-recyclable multi-pack.

although many make recyclable claims around the bottles.

440 bn grams of carbon emissions

created by the branded bottled water market. The same as 262,000 cars on the road a year.

2/3 of all bottled water is consumed at home, work, or out at dinner

Meaning the same use could be fulfilled using tap water



If you’re out and about, don’t buy a bottle, tap the Refill app instead. The free app locates more than 340,000 places to refill your water bottle around the world, including over 290,000 public water fountains, making it easy to quench your thirst on the go. It also points you to all the zero waste stores, reusables-friendly coffee shops and plastic-free lunch spots in your area, too! It’s the first app to help you live with less plastic and, with over half a million downloads, the award-winning Refill app is helping to stop plastic pollution at source.To download the Refill app, or find out more about the Refill Revolution in your local area, please visit www.refill.org.uk.



For over five years, BRITA has been working with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) as a long-term charity partner to support sustainable behaviour change in the UK. Plastic pollution is a severe threat to marine life, and up to 95% of plastic pollution in our oceans starts off as litter in our towns and cities. If you want to help WDC make a real difference to protect whales and dolphins from this preventable threat, you can take part in an Urban Beach Clean in your local area. By collecting litter, you can contribute to improving your local environment while also helping to stem the flow of plastic waste into the ocean. To find out more, please email events@whales.org today. 


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