After putting together the Reusable Water Bottle Category Recap, we also noticed an overall trend when we looked at all the water bottle scores together. Generally, the more “featured” a water bottle is, the worse it scored. Conversely, the “simpler” a water bottle is, the better it scored.
For example, the Nalgene Wide Mouth and the Liberty Bottle Works bottles are bottles with simple, one-piece caps (not counting the gasket) that screw on to basic-material bottles (Tritan plastic and aluminum respectively).
The bottles made from slightly more exotic materials (the glass bottles and the nylon in the Vapur anti-bottle) score a little bit lower from there. Then the bottles with flip-straws and push-buttons score even lower, with the most complex flip-straw bottle (Camelbak Better Bottle/Camelbak Eddy) and the most complex push-button (Contigo Madison) scoring near the bottom of the field. Scoring the very lowest are Klean Kanteen bottles, which are made of stainless steel, which is comparatively expensive and harder to work with (Sigg doesn’t count because it’s basically the European equivalent of Liberty Bottle Works).
Ultimately, I’m surprised by how strong the trend is. But I’m not surprised by the trend itself. Customers will only pay a certain amount for a reusable water bottle, regardless of its features or brand, forcing all water bottles to sell within roughly the same price window. So if a company wants to differentiate its products by adding features, it has to cut costs somewhere else to make up for the added manufacturing/assembly of those features. Companies cut those costs by moving operations to China, which lowers their American Alternative score.
*In 2012 Liberty Bottle Works released a sports cap that features a straw and is entirely American-made. This is great because its the only way (that we know of) to get an water bottle with those kinds of features that is made in the US. But….it doesn’t change the overall trend. This is because Liberty Bottleworks only offers the sports cap as a separate purchase, effectively raising the price of the final strawed bottle.
(Originally posted 11/8/2011. Most recently updated 3/29/2013.)