Over Memorial Day weekend last year, I raced from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in less than two days with a rebellious coterie of influencers.
There was a freelance writer who ran yoga retreats in Wyoming; a former model who made the cover of She; the son of rock legend Alex Van Halen. etc It was a cool bunch of people who are used to doing cool things, let’s just leave it at that, and none of them were particularly surprised to suddenly find themselves doing relay races across the Death Valley. You can read the full hug here.
That said, I was a little surprised when one of them opened a beer at the start of the trailer. We had barely arrived in Pasadena. He swallowed it in three gulps. What? I looked around to see if anyone else noticed. But another runner had one too. He looked like a big boy from Modelo, the kind you pick up before getting on the train. Eventually I managed to inspect the cans, which brought me back to the source – a 12-pack of something called Liquid Death. It wasn’t a lager. It was water.
The label featured a gothic font, a melting skull (or a worm-eating skull, it wasn’t clear), and a tagline: MURDER YOUR THIRST. The color scheme was cream, black and gold. The water itself was billed as “100% Australian Alps mountain water”.
I lost track of how many cans of Liquid Death I drank this weekend. Maybe 15-20. The road took us through Death Valley so the vans were filled with as much water as we could possibly need. While I was confused at first by choosing a brand of canned water that I had never heard of, it quickly made sense. This team was a walking photo shoot. They were never going to drink Deer Park.
Liquid Death was founded in 2017 by former Netflix creative director Mike Cessario, his business partner JR Riggins, a bartender named Pat Cook, and an artist named Will Carsola. Cessario’s vision for the company, as described in an interview with Eater last year, is inspired by the world’s most popular energy drink. He explained: “Red Bull is a gimmick. All it is is soda. It’s the same thing that’s been around forever, but they built this brand around action sports. What does riding a mountain bike have to do with an energy drink? »
And what does water have to do, indeed, with tattoo parlors, or skate shops, or unsanctioned road racing? Not much, necessarily – but when packaged like Liquid Death, everything. This water is punk. Who cares. You can shoot him if you want. The brand makes animated videos where a monster with a liquid skull kills people with an axe. He sells hoodies. Entrance to “Liquid Death Country Club” involves the simple act of selling your soul. The contract is valid for eternity.
When the brand was founded and the internet took over the whole concept, Liquid Death dutifully cataloged all the most creative burns. They then released them as lyrics from a rock album called The Greatest Hates, which you stream on Spotify or buy on vinyl. The brand also sells a vending machine called “Death Dispenser” for $5,800. Oh, and at one point Liquid Death sold skateboard decks painted red soaked in Tony Hawk’s blood.
In the About section of Liquid Death’s website, they sum up all the shenanigans with a succinct manifesto: “We’re just some weirdo water company that hates corporate marketing as much as you do.” This mission has been successful so far – Liquid Death has inspired a cult of drinkers eager to join the pack, and earned a pretty penny along the way. The company was officially launched in 2019 and is already valued at $525 million. It grossed $45 million in revenue last year and just closed with $75 million in Series C funding this month.
After a modest start, targeting grocers and offbeat venues in the Southern California region, Liquid Death is now available at all 7-Elevens in the US and Canada, as well as a lion’s share at Whole Foods. , and leveraged a collaboration with Live Nation to become the official water of Governors Ball and Austin City Limits.
It was quite the come-up, and it came quickly. But is that really all it takes to create a half-billion dollar water brand? Chop off a few cartoon heads here, make a few tweens at Coachella look like they’re drinking beer, and all of a sudden you’re leading a market that shark tank investors call notorious for 15 years?
There is more than that. In its campaign to be seen as a rule-breaking brand, Liquid Death seems to be careful never to Pause them. These cans aren’t just for looks or feel – although someone who’s a fan of both and thinks the water tastes significantly colder in Liquid Death cans – they pull it off on both counts. These cans are a durable replacement for plastic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “aluminum cans contain approximately 68% recycled content.” Plastic bottles make up an unreasonable 3%.
We’ve already covered how important it is for you to kick your plastic bottle habit, assuming it still exists. Plastic ends up in landfills and sewers. It enters rivers and oceans. Some of it is deliberately loaded onto freight ships and taken to the world’s poorest countries, where locals sort scrap metal for a pittance. Over time, many report respiratory complications from exposure to toxic fumes from plastic, which, The Guardian Remarks: “[results] burning plastics or processing plastics.
Liquid Death doesn’t just want to “kill your thirst”, apparently. The official motto of the brand is actually “death to plastic”. The site notes that “of all aluminum produced since 1888, more than 75% is still in use today.” It’s actually true. Although obtaining aluminum is time consuming initially – you need heavy machinery to extract it from the ground, and restoring the land afterwards is not easy – it is infinitely recyclable, like glass.
When you think about how difficult it is for climate experts to educate the masses, let alone convince them to make minor changes to their daily behavior, perhaps it was time for sustainably delivered water that inspires loyalty. to a cult brand. After all, for every beach cleanup Liquid Death organizes, it also gathers its members for a pop-up that has nothing to do with water or sustainability. For every box or t-shirt of a reaper he sells, he also donates 10% to nonprofits that work to build freshwater wells and encourage ocean stewardship.
Beyond the idea of marketing and cans, Liquid Death also arrived during a water boom. Brands like Essentia (“ionized water”, we’re skeptical), Recess (sparkling hemp water), Aura Bora (infused with fruits and flowers), and HOP WTR (filled with nootropics and adaptogens) sold out younger generations obsessed with hydration on the idea of better water — water as a fun solution, as something you don’t have to remember to drink.
Liquid Death took a slightly different approach, however. The water is good; it comes from a source in Austria, which the founders found out about on Google. I like it, a self-proclaimed water snob at Eater likes it, a group of sweaty runners in the California high desert certainly seemed to like it. But it’s nothing special. It was only recently that Liquid Death released flavors in addition to bubbly and bubbly.
It’s the names of those flavors, though (Mango Chainsaw, Severed Lime, Berry It Alive), that strike at the mangled heart of this wacky, oddly successful brand. The beverage industry needed bad boys. The fact that they are actually good people, or at least people doing good things, is even better.
So. How much can you expect to pay for a Liquid Death 12 pack? $15. Considering the running price in our brains for a bottle of water is $1 (unless you’re at the movies, of course, in which case it’s $8), that’s not bad. If you’re completely jumping down the rabbit hole, you can schedule auto-delivery via brand – don’t Amazon! — and start crushing the cans regularly. You can also just put it in your cart at Whole Foods.
It’s surprising to feel oddly positive about a brand that has made hundreds of millions of dollars reusing water. When I first read about the brand in that sandy pickup truck, I rolled my eyes. But I am convinced now. Next time you’re having a party, grab a few racks. Turn them off and let chaos ensue. Just like Liquid Death likes it.
This article was published in the Inside hook newsletter. Register now.