Decades ago, before anyone started thinking about hydration, we were okay. But now, we go nowhere without our water bottles. And those water bottles keep getting bigger.
At 40 ounces, the $45 Stanley Quencher has become a social media sensation.
Its popularity sent sales skyrocketing:
Our story starts in 1945 with a misinterpreted message from the National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines did say that we needed approximately six glasses of water a day. However, they also told us that, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”
The story continues when, at the University of Florida, a coach complained that the heat and humidity were exhausting his Gators. Until then, no one believed you should drink before exercising. Sloshing around in our belly, the water was supposed to slow us down. However, the players felt better after drinking some water, salt, and sugar that eventually got a taste of lemon juice,
From here, hydration also got a boost from the emerging science of wellness. Soon called 8 x 8, hydration is supposed to give us supple skin, healthy kidneys, and prevent constipation. During the 1970s, wellness became connected to a newly imported bubbly water called Perrier. Soon after, the development of plastic bottles meant we could travel with our water.
And thus, the idea of hydration was born. Or, we could say it was invented. After all, we get our water signals from thirst. Hydration is a different concept. We hydrate all the time, even when we are not thirsty. And yet, except for people whose kidneys tend to form stones and individuals susceptible to bladder infections, scientific research provides no evidence that 8 x 8 helps our health.
Our Bottom Line: Demand
Demand is a thread that runs through hydration.
First, explaining the impact of hydration, an economist would look at the determinants that increase or decrease demand. Citing complementary goods, she would see an increasingly affluent consumer that was concerned with health and exercise. As a good that (reputedly) enhanced each activity, water is a complement. On a graph, we could say that as the demand for wellness and exercise grew, so too did the demand for bottled water.
Similarly, with Stanley, a determinant also nudges our demand curve to the right. This time though, it is utility. Defined as usefulness, utility relates to popularity. Invented in 1913 by a man named Stanley, the steel walled thermos was a mainstay for workmen and pilots. Then, 100 years later, it was discovered by the online trendsetters that propelled the thermos’s utility. Like new fashion. the Stanley became trendy, especially after they added new colors in 2022.
While I am not sure if Stanley increased its prices, resellers are charging hundreds of dollars for Stanley tumblers.
My sources and more: It is always wonderful when two articles converge. For me it was a combination of the Hustle newsletter about Stanley with a Decoder Ring podcast on hydration. From there, The Washington Post and Mother Jones debunked the reasons for “hydration.” And finally, for some Stanley history, their website was ideal (and the source of our featured image).
Please note that parts of today’s hydration story were in a past econlife post.