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Hydro Flask started out at farmers markets. Here's how it got so huge

Priscella Vega, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Jelly shoes. JNCO jeans. Juicy Couture tracksuits. Ugg boots. Over the decades, any number of fashion pieces have enjoyed their moment as an "it" item. Now we're in the era of must-have water bottle.

The Hydro Flask looks like what it is: a sleek, insulated, color-coated stainless-steel container for storing liquid.

How it distinguished itself from any other bottle at sporting goods stores and became a hot fashion accessory is a story about the convergence of several cultural threads: anxiety about the environment, a surge in attention to self-care and wellness, and the simple desire to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.

The result? A Hydro Flask has become the kind of gift that can send a tween into paroxysms of joy.

Newport Beach, Calif., sixth-grader Ella Lin Espinosa put one at the top of her Christmas wish list. When she opened the present, "I literally freaked out and I was just screaming because I loved it so much!" she recalled, still giddy.

Hydro Flask is the rare mom-and-pop brand that won the hearts and minds of America's youths and celebrities -- after it sold out to a global conglomerate. And its success hinges on its ability to help its owner make not just a fashion statement but perhaps also a political one.

 

Toting a Hydro Flask -- which starts at about $30 -- shows off a person's eco-chic credentials, said Richard Wilk, professor emeritus of anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington: It broadcasts the message, "Not only am I smart and stylish but I'm interested in saving the world."

The thermos has been a consumer item for decades, with the Stanley name alone dating back a century. In recent years, Nalgene's transparent plastic bottles experienced surges of popularity, especially after the brand started making them free of bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in plastics.

Concerns about BPA's health effects, in turn, helped bring Hydro Flask into existence.

In 2008, Travis Rosbach opted to make the switch to reusable bottles. He bought two metal bottles and wound up hating both.

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