In 2019, Santa Monica, California became the birthplace of a brand that has won the hearts and souls of the TikTok generation, quite literally. There’s nothing too unique about the concept: the company sells still and sparkling waters. However, Liquid Death sets itself apart with an “evil mission. . . to make people laugh and get more of them to drink more water more often, all while helping to kill plastic pollution.”
Customers are invited to “sell your soul” for membership in the Liquid Death Country Club in exchange for access to event invites and special merchandise; more than 225,000 people have signed up. It is the third most popular carbonated beverage on Amazon. Liquid Death is also sold online on GoPuff and DoorDash and is available at 60,000 brick-and-mortar stores like 7-Eleven, Publix, Sheetz, and Whole Foods Market.
Science Ventures recently led a $70 Series D fundraising round in the beverage brand, which brought Liquid Death a valuation of $700 million and also included Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Swedish House Mafia as investors. Peter Pham, the co-founder of Science Ventures, notes that with $130 million in revenue expected this year – almost triple that of last year and on pace to double again next year – “we believe Liquid Death may be the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage of all time. From our research, it took Monster four years and Celsius 12 years to reach the level of retail success Liquid Death has had in just three.” It may even have more brand loyalty than its competitors: at least 300 people have gotten Liquid Death tattoos, posted them on social media, and tagged the company.
At its core, Liquid Death aims to help consumers make healthier choices. Co-founder and CEO Mike Cessario realized that wellness could be made fun after an ad he worked on for the organics industry blew up. Cessario recalls: “we saw that all the unhealthy brands in the world of marketing were doing all the coolest, funniest, most irreverent marketing. So we thought it would be interesting to take the healthiest thing you could possibly drink, which is water, and one-up the marketing of all the unhealthy stuff.”
Liquid Death gets its water from an underground natural spring in the Austrian Alps, distinguishing it from other bottled water products that consist of reprocessed municipal tap water. “Besides murdering your thirst, our number one goal is to ensure that consumers of our water are protected,” the company claims in its Bottled Water Report.
One of the things that make Liquid Death so fun beyond its messaging is its physical packaging: the drinks come in cans designed to look like a beer or energy drink.
Plus, the cans are made of aluminum, which is infinitely recyclable – 75 percent of the aluminum produced since 1888 is still in circulation. According to Cessario, “part of the reason it’s called Liquid Death is because we’re trying to bring death to plastic bottles because most plastic isn’t actually recyclable.”
Liquid Death is also making sustainability entertaining – if gruesome – with its Cutie Polluties. These plush collectibles, like Trashy the Turtle, Wastey the Whale, and Suffers the Seal, depict marine animals that have been “mutilated by single-use plastic.” Half the profits from this merchandise are donated to fight plastic pollution.
In fact, all of the brand’s merchandise buys heavily into the company’s overarching theme. For example, the company collaborated with Martha Stewart on a Dismembered Moments Luxury Candle, shaped like a severed hand holding a can of Liquid Death and shipped in an eco-friendly box.
In addition to attractive packaging, gruesome merchandise, and themed names for their flavored sparkling waters – like the Mango Chainsaw, the Severed Lime, and the Berry It Alive – Liquid Death creates entertaining online content to reach its customer base and help them enjoy making healthy choices. Andy Pearson, vice president of creative strategy, explained that “our whole thing is entertainment over marketing. . . The best part about Liquid Death is it’s sort of the world’s greatest brand inside joke, I think. Because if you get it, you get it, and the people on the outside that don’t get it just do not understand.”
The content-themed success speaks for itself: Liquid Death is the beverage company with the most followers on TikTok in the U.S. at 2.9 million and has generated 21 billion media impressions over the past year. And the collaborations have been wild, with videos featuring celebrities like Tony Hawk as an ambassador and fictional character “The Deep” from Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys as a sustainability associate. Cessario notes that “we always try to diversify the talent we partner up with because we want anyone to look to Liquid Death and see themselves.”
There seems to be no limit to Liquid Death’s future success. The brand plans to use the latest funding round to expand its products into new beverage categories and its geographic reach into Europe, as well as to prepare for a possible IPO. In general, though, Cessario says that “we’re focused on world domination and making all beverages Liquid Death one day.”