Why Are Reusable Water Bottle Prices out of Control?

by Adel

What is your Bottle Made of?

If you ever tried to buy a reusable water bottle, you definitely noticed the huge difference in bottle prices between the different companies? Taking a quick look through Amazon, you can find bottles that range anywhere from $15 to $80 even though they seem to do the same exact thing. So, what’s the deal, is there a reason for this huge price discrepancy and are these bottles overpriced?

 There is, of course, a huge difference in bottles depending on what you are looking for. The two main categories of reusable water bottles are plastic, and thermal insulated metal ones. Naturally the plastic ones are usually cheaper because they are simper to make and the material is cheaper. The metal ones usually have 2 layers of metal to help insulate the bottle and maintain the temperature of the liquid inside. 

For the sake of this article, I will focus on thermal insulated water bottles. (If you want to learn more about them, click here)

If you look for generic brands, you can find a 32 oz bottle for as cheap as $16. But if you check out similar bottles from Yeti or Hydro Flask, you will see that they cost $40 – $45. So, is there a reason?

If you look at the specs of all the brands, you will see nearly identical information:

  • Keeps drinks cold for 18-24 hours
  • Keeps drinks hot for 12 hours
  • Made of 18/8 Stainless Steel
  • Double-wall vacuum insulated
  • Leakproof
  • Usually dishwasher safe

So, if they all do the same thing and they are all made of the same stuff, why the difference in price? Let’s look at the facts, to do this we can visit two simple websites.

bottle prices

How Much Do Bottles Cost to Make?

 The first website I use is Alibaba.com  and the second is ImportYeti.com  (unrelated to the Yeti water bottle). On Alibaba, you can search for what ever item you want to purchase directly from manufacturers in China. Through a simple search, you can see that there are multiple companies selling bottles with the same exact specs mentioned above for a very cheap price. 

The same type of stainless-steel bottles can be bought in bulk for as cheap as $2.99 a bottle. This is not the final price however, because there are still shipping charges and taxes a company must pay. We can also safely assume that there is a level of quality difference between the different manufacturers.

Who Manufactures these Bottles?

This brings up the second website mentioned, ImportYeti. This website allows users to perform a two-way search to see which US companies import from which manufacturer and vice-versa. Using this simple method, we can see that many of the largest companies actually use the same manufacturers for their bottles. 

For example, a manufacturer named Zhejiang Haers Vacuum Containers’s Customers shipped to Yeti Coolers, Costco, Klean Kanteen and many other companies. You can see that list here.

They also, in fact, use multiple manufacturers for the bottles. This is a common strategy in case one manufacturer has problems or there is an increase in demand. Considering these companies use the same manufacturer, and have products made from the same material, there should NOT be such a large discrepancy in final consumer price. 

What is the Bottle Manufacturing Process?

Even though many of these companies use the same manufacturers, it does not mean all the bottles are the same. Many can companies use the same manufacturing plant for their cars with huge difference in quality.

Companies are able to dictate their own quality standards to the manufacturer. Some companies may be more stringent on the standard they have for bottles, so anything less than a great bottle is rejected. This would mean that certain bottles are actually better than others, even if they are from the same manufacturer.

Unfortunately, we have no we to confirm this, so we can only work with the assumption that bottles are made with the same standard and that this does not have an effect on bottle prices.

So, do Bottle Prices Make Sense?

Even if the companies were paying $6-$7 a bottle, there is still a very large profit to be made when selling the final bottle to the consumer at $40-$45. This is especially true considering other companies using the same manufacturers are still making a profit while selling bottles at under $20.

Since we know there is no major discernable difference in the manufacturing process affecting the final price, there is only one other explanation; brand recognition. 

Brand Recognition:

Brand names can carry strong weight and trust with consumers. And companies can then use that trust to increase their price. There are a few companies with enough brand recognition and customer loyalty that they can set their own prices. The most popular ones are probably Yeti, Hydro Flask. A few others could be Kleen Kanteen, and Camelbak. These companies are fairly unique due to their strong advertising and often recognizable bottles that customers will flock to them despite being considerably more expensive than the competition. 

As for the rest of the brands, it is a race to the bottom. Since there is no brand recognition or loyalty, customers will usually just buy the cheapest bottle available. So, all the off-brands will try to undercut one another to get the biggest share of non-loyal customers in hopes of increasing their market share, while decreasing their profitability. 

Let’s do the Math on Bottle Prices

I will use bottles sold on Amazon through FBA as an example.

I will use a bottle that is sold on Amazon for $19.99 as an example. Amazon has a cost calculator for FBA products. Follow this link and you will see that Amazon charges the seller a fee of $10.48. If it costs the seller $5.00. Then the final profit is $5.48.

Sellers also often have returns that are damaged and cannot be resold, so there are a few more costs as well. But I will keep this example simple. 

Compare this to Hydro Flask or Yeti, which generally has the same or cheaper cost from the manufacturer, and no extra costs to ship, we can see they make a lot more money on each bottle without providing much extra value. 

Final Verdict, Are Bottle Prices too High?

No, unless you are looking at “high end” bottles like Yeti and HydroFlask. Does this mean you should not buy them? Also no, since these bottles clearly serve a second purpose, which some may care about and others not so much.

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