How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition - Company Story and Background of Liquid Death

How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition


The next time you walk past the sparkling water aisle in the grocery store, keep an eye out for Liquid Death. Despite the name, and the fact that it actually looks like it could be an alcoholic beverage, these are actually healthy canned water drinks.

First released through a website in 2019, Liquid Death has quickly crushed the competition to become one of the fastest-selling canned water drinks. With interesting branding and flavors, they have really set themselves apart from the usual sparkling water options you see every day.

The sparkling water category had a sales total of $3.6 billion last year alone. That’s a lot of cash to go around. So, what led to the success of Liquid Death? How is it different from the other sparkling water brands?

Let’s dive in and take a detailed look at Liquid Death, including the person behind these drinks and how he built a massively successful beverage company.


How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition- What Exactly is Liquid Death

What Exactly is Liquid Death?


Liquid Death is a canned mountain water drink sold in 16.9-ounce cans, which is the standard size for many energy drinks. You may easily confuse Liquid Death for another energy drink or even an alcoholic beverage as we mentioned. We personally have purchased this water before and the cashier asked for an ID, then quickly realized it’s just water!

The packaging and marketing borrow a lot from Monster Energy and are geared toward the heavy metal and punk rock crowd. It was created by Mike Cessario, who formerly worked as a graphic designer.

The original Liquid Death drink was released in 2019 and comes from a water source in the Austrian Alps. In 2020, the company introduced a sparkling water variety. By 2022, Liquid Death was valued at $525 million, making it a major player in the beverage industry.

So, how did a new sparkling water brand manage to achieve such fast success in a market filled with recognizable and loved brands? It all started when a former Netflix creative director went to a Vans Warped Tour concert in 2009.

How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition - Monster Energy Cans Spark a New Idea

Monster Energy Cans Spark a New Idea


Mike Cessario is the founder and owner of Liquid Death. He came up with the idea for the company in 2009 after witnessing people reusing Monster Energy cans during the Vans Warped Tour festival. After drinking the energy drinks, musicians would fill up the cans with water to stay hydrated.

Cessario started wondering why the irreverent branding used for Monster Energy was rarely used for healthy products. Edgy, individual branding seems to often be reserved for things like junk food and energy drinks. This thought would stick with Cessario for quite a few years before he applied it to his upcoming company.

In 2014, Cessario was developing a public service campaign to discuss the potential health risks of energy drinks. His initial concept involved creating a canned water product that poked fun at the marketing used for energy drinks.

While the client decided to go in a different direction, Cessario continued to think about the concept in his free time. Over the next few years, he gradually expanded his initial idea. He also brought together a team to help bring his idea to life. Cessario was joined by three partners, including a bartender and an artist.

No one in the group actually had any experience developing a beverage brand, but they would soon be the heads of a multi-million-dollar company.


Choosing the Dumbest Possible Name


According to Mike Cessario, the name of his water brand came from trying to think of the dumbest possible name for a healthy beverage. He believes that trying to think of a smart idea leads your brain to focus on existing, successful ideas. Trying to think of the dumbest idea gives your brain some freedom to explore other options.

The group came up with a variety of names, including Southern Thunder, before settling on Liquid Death. The name sounds edgy and dangerous, but it’s for a bottled water product, which is one of the healthiest things in the drink aisle. Truly an oxymoron at its finest.

Cessario also recognized that the name would draw attention and appeal to his chosen demographic. He still wanted to promote the product to concertgoers and musicians looking to stay hydrated at heavy metal and punk concerts. He trademarked the name “Liquid Death” in 2017, about eight years after initially coming up with the idea for mountain water in a can.


Using Social Media to Test the Waters


Before searching for investors, Cessario wanted to make sure that he was onto something with the Liquid Death idea. He created a Facebook page for the brand in 2018. He also shot a short commercial for just $1,500 and spent another few thousand on paid advertising to attract interest. Within four months, the commercial had generated over three million views and the Facebook page had close to 80,000 followers.

At the time, the Liquid Death Facebook page had more followers than Aquafina, which was a legitimate water brand. Liquid Death was still just a concept without a physical product.

How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition - Googling a Supplier for Canned Water

Googling a Supplier for Canned Water


Cessario and his team needed to find a way to produce their product, so they turned to Google for an answer. They soon found a company in Austria that obtains mountain water from a nearby spring in the Austrian Alps to make various beverages, including energy drinks.

The company, Starzinger, is based in the town of Frankenmarkt in Austria. Along with obtaining mountain water, the company cans beverages, saving the team the hassle of needing to transport the water in plastic. Despite shipping cans of water from overseas, the process is more sustainable compared to sourcing water from local springs in the United States.

It costs less and uses fewer resources to send canned water with ocean freight compared to shipping it across the country on trucks. Apparently, one study found that wine imported from France can possess a smaller carbon footprint compared to wine produced in California.

How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition - Raising Millions in Seed Funding

Raising Millions in Seed Funding


Launching a new beverage costs money obviously, which typically comes from investors. By early 2019, Liquid Death had received a little over $500,000 from various early backers. In January 2019, the company received another $1.6 million in seed funding from Science Ventures.

The company now had enough funds to start producing its product. Liquid Death was initially sold to consumers through the company’s website. More investment would be needed to expand the reach of the product. In February 2020, the company received $9 million in investments through a Series A round of funding. A series B round of funding in September 2020 resulted in another $23 million.

Liquid Death now had millions in capital, helping it expand its production and reach. They finally had cash in hand and were ready to roll.


Building Brand Awareness and Recognition


During the first two years of production, Liquid Death was sold online and at various bars and tattoo parlors. They also obtained a partnership with Live Nation to sell its water at major festivals around the country, including Austin City Limits.

Cessario also came up with the idea to produce a collaborative punk album featuring a wide range of popular punk and rock bands, including Rise Against and Alkaline Trio. The album included songs inspired by hateful online messages that the brand had received. The track list included songs such as “Liquid Lame-O.” It also helped endear the brand to its exact core audience.

Another smart collaboration included the release of skateboard decks containing real blood from Tony Hawk. The sale of the skateboard decks helped generate money for charity and boost the brand’s recognition. Win-win!


Liquid Death Hits the Store Shelves


Cessario and the team at Liquid Death knew that they needed to get their product on more store shelves. After the last round of funding, the company signed a deal to sell its products at Whole Foods Market stores across the United States. They appeared on shelves at Whole Foods Market starting in March 2020. A 12-pack sold for $14.99, putting it in the same price range as popular bottled water products.

However, Liquid Death had cooler branding and was soon the fastest-selling brand of water at Whole Foods Market. The company soon released a sparkling water version of its product. Liquid Death sparkling water contains the carbonation level of the typical beer, giving it a distinct style compared to other sparkling water brands.

During the summer of 2020, Liquid Death products became available at 7-Eleven stores throughout LA and San Diego before expanding to other parts of the country. You can now find Liquid Death at most 7-Eleven, Whole Foods Market, Publix, and Sprouts stores in the US.

The company also continues to build its online presence through social media platforms and its official website. Liquid Death now has over 250,000 Facebook followers and over 1.4 million Instagram followers. The company frequently releases funny videos and curated content to its fanbase. They learned early who their target customers were and how to appeal to them specifically, which is key when perfecting your content.

Their website also contains more information on the company’s range of beverages. You can also find a variety of entertaining videos, a merchandise section, and a store locator to help you find Liquid Death near you.

How Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition - Achieving a $700 Million Valuation Within Three Years

Achieving a $700 Million Valuation Within Three Years


Liquid Death was launched in 2019 and received a valuation of $700 million in 2022. In just three short years, the company had made a major dent in the bottled water industry.

According to Cessario, the company generated $45 million in revenue in 2021 and is expected to earn $130 million in 2022. Liquid Death also completed several additional rounds of funding. The company raised $15 million in May 2021, $75 million in January 2022, and another $70 million in October 2022.


How Does Liquid Death Stack Up Against the Competition?


Liquid Death has quickly grown from its origins as a Facebook page to become one of the biggest water brands in the world. Based on the company’s reported revenue, it should be within the top ten largest bottled water companies when ranked based on gross annual sales. Pretty impressive.

According to the available data, Ozarka is the 8th largest bottled water company with $579 million in sales in 2022. Deer Park was ranked 9th with $58.1 million in revenue. Liquid Death may fall somewhere between the two companies. However, Liquid Death is still a relatively small company compared to more established brands, such as Dasani and Aquafina. Those were both founded in 1999. In 2022, Aquafina reported $872 million in sales. Dasani generated $3.79 billion in the same year.

Along with major companies, Liquid Death needs to look out for smaller water brands competing for customers.

Path Water is a newer water brand that sells water in reusable aluminum bottles. The company recently received $30 million in series A funding, exceeding the $9 million that Liquid Death received during its own series A funding round. As with Liquid Death, Path Water ditches plastic. However, the company is not copying Liquid Death. Path Water developed the first prototype for its aluminum bottle in January 2015 – four years before the release of the Liquid Death Facebook page.

Then when it comes to other sparkling water heavy hitters such as La Croix or Bubbly, it seems like more and more options are available on the shelf these days with them. People are looking for something new, and paying more attention to ingredients and what’s the “healthier option”.


Releasing Additional Flavors of Liquid Death


When a company starts to reach the peak of its ability to attract new customers, it often releases new products to appeal to a wider audience. Liquid Death followed the same approach.

The company eventually released four varieties of flavored, carbonated water beverages: Severed Lime, Mango Chainsaw, Convicted Melon, Berry It Alive. The carbonated beverages from Liquid Death are all-natural and contain few calories. The only added sugar comes from agave nectar.

In March 2023, Liquid Death announced the release of three new products. The company plans to release three tea flavors, including Grim Leafer, Armless Palmer, and Rest in Peach. Each can of tea contains 30 milligrams of caffeine.


What Happens Next for Liquid Death?


Liquid Death has built a strong reputation and loyal fanbase. It’s also becoming a staple of the festival circuit. As with Monster Energy before it, Liquid Death is a major sponsor at festivals and related events. They occupy about 1% or less of the bottled water market. It has plenty of room to grow, but it also has strong competition.

Liquid Death’s existing customer base and position within the festival scene may help sustain the company through the coming years. It occupies a niche area of the beverage industry.

If the company hopes to attract a larger share of the market, it may need to try some new strategies or release additional products to widen its reach. In the end, Liquid Death is another great example of how an original idea can lead to the development of a multi-million-dollar company.

The success of Liquid Death also reinforces the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you. Cessario noticed a gap in the market and filled it with his unique product.




Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieHow Liquid Death Is Crushing the Sparkling Water Competition