Bottled water is 2,900 times more expensive than tap water and burdens America’s environment and oil market with the equivalent of 37,800 gas guzzling delivery trucks. The House of Representatives alone spends nearly a million tax dollars a year on bottled water.
The funny thing is, bottled and tap water are nearly identical, separated mostly by a fancy label that triggers our psychological susceptibility to perceive a better taste from a prettier presentation. A new company, Vyykn, aims to end America’s addiction to bottled water with a subscription refill service, which allows customers to fill up on oxygenated and filtered water for a yearly fee of $30.
The subscription comes with a electronic keychain chip that activates the spout on a futuristic looking dispenser, complete with options for O2, filtered, and hot water. The still semi-stealth water service was on display at the Annual Aspen Ideas Festival*, where founder Steve Kuzara tells us that large corporations, such as Microsoft, have already become customers, to save money they would otherwise waste on bottled water. Perhaps more importantly, Kuzara estimates that restaurants and gyms that sell the subscription service to their customers make about 27% more than by selling premium bottled water ($3,000 net profit from 1,500 monthly bottled water vs. the equivalent of Vyykn refills).
Interestingly, the Vyykn Water business model has to overcome the same hurdle as electric vehicles: network effects, the more people demand it, the more refill stations there will be. It’s not inconceivable that Vyykn water could develop its own cool cachet, like Starbucks, where walking around with a branded cup is seen as a sign of environmental hipness.
When I was a teenaged grocery sacker, I used to get a kick out of asking soccer moms if they felt guilty paying for the most abundant resource on Earth while meticulously collecting coupons to save money. For the sake the planet and our shrinking wallets, let’s hope that Vyykn — or someone — can succeed in crushing the Dasani’s and Aquafina’s of the world. Screw bottled water.
*Disclosure: I consult for the Aspen Institute on a separate government innovation-related conference