Thought Leadership


Nathan Dietz
Senior Designer

July 29, 2020

Four words, five syllables: Protect what you love. A simple idea that sums up a growing consumer trend as they stoically march into the new decade and put behind the last one. Concerned about the Pacific trash island and preserving the environment… protect what you love. Building a healthier and better-for-you 2020… protect what you love. Finding brands that support your ethics through transparency and integrity…  protect what you love. Consumers across all ages-Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z-have passions, concerns, and brands that they are fiercely proud of and will advocate for (as long as their trust is not betrayed).

As attitudes toward health and sustainability continue to evolve, brand strategies and product designs for hydration bottles have also heated up in the last several years. Market research firm NPD Group reported that 105 million reusable water bottles were sold in the U.S. between June 2018 and June 2019. That is roughly one new bottle for every three Americans in just a single year. While health and sustainability are key to continued expansion for brands, reusable water bottles as personal, lifestyle accessories have begun to play a larger role as well. S’well and bkr are just two hydration brands that use celebrity endorsements along with trend-forward graphic design and an empowering tone-of-voice to drive consumer interest. These two brands demonstrate that today’s consumers are not just looking for products that are functional but must also fit their “style.” In order words, everything consumers purchase must also make a statement about who they are and what they believe. You are what you buy, so protect what you love.

Water and Workouts are Highest Health Priorities
“People trying to stay healthy tend to prioritize easier day-to-day actionable activities than longer-term activities. In essence, it’s easier to drink more water or take a supplement than stick to a healthy diet plan.”

Mintel, “Healthy Lifestyles – US”,
November 2020

While the hydration trend is already in full swing, it is expected to see continued growth as it reflects Americans’ sustained interest in spending on discretionary categories such as dining out, leisure and entertainment, and home and garden. Along with environmental wellness, we are also seeing a surge in individual wellness. Google Trends indicates that the term “self-care” is at a five-year high, which is also reflected in Mintel’s “American Lifestyles” report published in April 2019. This report outlined consumers’ top three goals for 2019 which were to improve health, improve finances, and try new things. Interestingly enough, the trend towards sustainability seems intertwined with wellness as customers focus on eating healthier foods, drinking less soda, and exercising more all while spending fewer dollars on physical items in favor of experiences.

Reusable hydration brands fit in the crux of sustainability and self-care as consumers track water intake to help curb the 2pm munchies, chug still-cold water after a long outdoor run or bring coffee from home in reusable containers versus going to Starbucks. As a result, this shift in healthier behavior for both the individual and the planet has created a strong need state for reusable containers as well as water sources. For example, while many buildings and public spaces have freely accessible water fountains, they are often viewed as dirty and unsanitary. In fact, many New Yorkers dislike public water so much that a startup called Reefill employs a monthly subscription model that grants access to “premium” water for users all across the city’s cafés. Paying extra for water, which is normally free, because consumers believe it’s better can be considered the epitome of “self-care.”

Hydration is functional, pure and simple: water in and water out. However, hydration bottles are judged by a different standard: sustainability. Delivering these goals while still maintaining transparency about materials and product sourcing give cause for celebration, but if brands fail to deliver they will quickly find themselves in the ire of a public backlash. One opportunity for brands is to develop a closed-loop system where products are created using recycled materials in a zero-waste setting. For example, Loop is a service that allows customers to purchase everyday products in reusable containers that are shipped in a zero-waste delivery system and eliminate disposable, single-use shipping materials. Once empty, the customer ships back the used product to be cleaned, refilled, and sent off again. The Loop system has a lower environmental impact by over 20% when compared to traditional retailer models. Long Trail Sustainability, a third-party verification group, has shown that transportation is not the biggest driver of environmental impacts compared to the energy and resources used to create product and single-use packaging. A subscription-based service similar to Loop could serve a functional purpose of creating a continuous revenue stream while protecting and promoting environmental standards.

One brand that has successfully made the transition from a legacy to a self-care and sustainable brand is Thermos. From its origins, Thermos has always been the leader in insulated home goods. When Thermos came to Kaleidoscope to retain this leadership position in our changing retail market, we were excited to solve the challenge of balancing the right amounts of heritage, sustainability, and a beautiful design, so consumers could become better versions of themselves and look good while doing it. Our key strategy was to ensure that the brand and consumer both felt like they had a role in the relationship. Enabling consumers’ voices (through qualitative and quantitative research) allowed pain points and obstacles to be easily discovered and resolved. For Thermos, it was not just the insulated products, brand reputation, or bottom line that was (and is) important; rather, it’s each and every customer. They strive to provide the best products for the best people and truly embody the ethos of “Protect what you love.”

Positive Perceptions Toward Refillable Water Bottles
“Growing interest in sustainability is motivating some consumers to increase their use of refillable water bottles. Overall, consumers perceive refillable water bottles as being better for the environment and a better value than packaged water.”

Mintel, “Still and Sparkling Water – US”, February 2019


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