Although vessels to bottle and transport water were part of the earliest human civilizations, bottling water began in the United Kingdom with the first water bottling at the Holy Well in 1622. The demand for bottled water was fueled in large part by the resurgence in spa-going and water therapy among Europeans and American colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The first commercially distributed water in America was bottled and sold by Jackson’s Spa in Boston in 1767. Early drinkers of bottled spa waters believed that the water at these mineral springs had therapeutic properties and that bathing in or drinking the water could help treat many common ailments.
The popularity of bottled mineral waters quickly led to a market for imitation products. Carbonated waters developed as means for approximating the natural effervescence of spring-bottled water, and in 1809 Joseph Hawkins was issued the first U.S. patent for “imitation” mineral water. As technological innovation in nineteenth century lowered the cost of making glass and improved production speed for bottling, bottled water was able to be produced on a larger scale and the beverage grew in popularity. Bottled water was seen by many as a safer alternative to 19th century municipal water supplies that could be contaminated with pathogens like cholera and typhoid. By the middle of the century, one of America’s most popular bottlers, Saratoga Springs, was producing more than 7 million bottles of water annually.
In the United States, the popularity of bottled water declined in the early 20th century, when the advent of water chlorination reduced public concerns about water-borne diseases in municipal water supplies. However, it remained popular in Europe, where it spread to cafes and grocery stores in the second half of the century. In 1977, Perrier launched a successful advertisement campaign in the United States, heralding a rebirth in popularity for bottled water. Today, bottled water is the second most popular commercial beverage in the United States, with about half the domestic consumption as soft drinks.