Kaiji, an 18-year-old in Arizona, hates Dasani water. Besides the “sketchy shit that goes with being a Coca-Cola brand,” he says, it tastes like “watered-down hand lotion.” “The amount of different minerals in that concoction is insane,” he continues. “To the point that the only good part of Dasani is that it’s cold when you buy it.”
His loathing is the internet’s loathing, too. As such, in water-loving subreddits like r/HydroHomies, redditors have been meme-ing Dasani to hell long before the coronavirus shined a light on just how deep the well of Dasani hostility goes.
But why all the animosity? After all, it’s bottled water pretty much like any other — a largely unnecessary good that mostly inflicts harm upon the environment. How, then, could it really be that much worse than any of its competitors? Even if it’s merely refiltered municipal water, they likely aren’t doing things much differently… right?
For an expert opinion, I reached out to the world’s leading water sommelier, Martin Riese. Turns out, he’s not much of a Dasani fan either. “To be honest, I refuse to drink Dasani; I will never put it into my mouth,” Riese tells me. “Because I’m really not interested in the taste of highly processed, designed-by-focus-group factory water, which is what Dasani is. So it makes me happy that Americans are finally realizing that they shouldn’t spend their money on filtered tap water.”
Dasani, he explains, along with Smartwater, Aquafina and “any other bottled water that doesn’t say ‘spring water’ on the bottle,” is a capitalistic abomination. They take tap water and filter out all of the minerals and chemical contaminants before inserting some combination of minerals until the combination creates a flavor profile people like. “It’s the biggest lie on planet Earth,” Riese says.
“So when you go to the grocery store, look at the labels: If it says spring water, that means it comes from a naturally occurring source and they cannot do anything to it, it’s 100 percent water created by nature. If it’s a purified water like Dasani, you know it’s nothing else than filtered tap water created in a factory,” Riese says.
In other words, comparing Dasani to spring water would be like comparing grape Kool-Aid to a Chambertin pinot noir. One is organically flavored (“rainwater drips down into the ground stone, through different layers of earth, giving it a unique mineral composition, and thus, an incredible flavor that is impossible to recreate,” Riese explains); the other is made in a lab.
It doesn’t help that rather than “minerals” or “electrolytes,” Dasani lists salt as an ingredient. “If people see ‘salt’ and think ‘salt,’ they’re going to taste salt,” Riese says.
In fairness, the amount of salt is (mostly) negligible, and most water contains sodium anyway. So the claim that Dasani puts salt in their water to make people thirstier (and, thus, buy more) doesn’t hold much, um, water.
Coca-Cola didn’t respond to my request for comment, but Michael, a pseudonymous employee at a Dasani bottling plant, says they don’t care about the hate and rumors. “They care about the consumer and the taste, not so much the hate,” he tells me, adding that he doesn’t get the hate either. “There’s spring water, there’s alkaline water and there’s water that’s produced through distillation. Different brands and types are produced differently, and people have their preference. I happen to like Dasani. The salt is just a couple bags of salt added to water, diluted and then injected for taste. It says it right on the bottle. And the fizz is just nitrogen to keep the pallets from collapsing, like air in potato chip bags.”
Michael has a front seat to making his favorite water.
All of this said, Riese believes the real reason Dasani is being left on shelves — even when people are hoarding every bottle of water they can get their hands on — is because of the branding. “Consider Smartwater: From the standpoint of processing and quality, it’s pretty much the same as Dasani, but everyone thinks it’s this incredible, healthy water worth the high price tag,” he argues. On the other side of the equation, of course, is Dasani. It’s neither fancy nor cheap and economical. It’s just Dasani, baby!
Ultimately, whether you hate Dasani or not, Riese advises that we use this unprecedented moment in history to take stock of what we have. “We need to think about how we use and consume water; to reconsider how much we waste water and bottled water’s impact on the environment; and, more than anything else, to be thankful that most people in this country don’t have to worry about access to safe water from the tap, which is much better for you than any brand of purified water, Dasani included.”
So there is one good use for Dasani bottles in the age of quarantine, says Riese: “Fill up some from the tap for an emergency. Power outages, broken pipes: There are plenty of bigger threats to our water than a virus. And make sure your friends and neighbors do the same.”