How to Start a Bottled Water Company in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: January 23, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The bottled water industry is a lucrative market, valued at over $316.76 billion in 2023. As health trends shift towards sugar-free options and consumers place greater value on convenience, bottled water has become one of the fastest-growing beverage segments, with an expected 6.14% growth rate from 2023 to 2028.


Tap into this high-demand niche with your own bottled water company. Determine your production capacity and distribution reach to target specific client segments – from grocery chains to hotels and gyms to hospitals. Research permits, equipment, and testing are needed to bottle natural springs or purified water.

This guide will explain how to start a bottled water company. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, obtaining business insurance, forming an LLC, customer focus, registering an EIN, and more.

1. Conduct Bottled Water Market Research

Market research is essential to water bottling company newcomers. It offers insight into market trends, target market, market saturation, and other details integral to starting your own bottled water business.


Some details you’ll learn through market research include:

  • An appealing factor is the high gross margins for bottled water companies.
  • While figures vary based on factors like source and processing method, bottled water generally produces gross margins of over 50% on average.
  • With strong forecasted revenue growth, the bottled water industry remains lucrative.
  • Rising environmental concerns could pose a challenge.
  • Growing awareness of plastic pollution may gradually shift demand towards sustainable packaging and water access initiatives.
  • Those entering this market should emphasize product purity, sustainable practices like recycled PET bottles, and affordable pricing bundles to retain budget-conscious consumers in an economic downturn.

With strategic planning, emerging bottled water companies can capitalize on this growth market by identifying an under-served niche, differentiating through unique mineral content claims, or disruptive filtration methods for purified water. The rewarding margins provide healthy profit potential to establish your footprint here.

2. Analyze the Competition

Understanding the competitive landscape is key for new bottled water companies aiming to secure market share. Investigating other bottled water businesses offers an important look into local pricing, services, water treatment machines, and even where to base your water bottling plant.


Research major brands and regional players to analyze pricing, packaging, labeling claims, and target demographics. For example, budget offerings like Aquafina or higher-priced imports like Fiji. Visit grocery stores, convenience shops, gyms, and hotels to see first-hand what’s stocked and promoted through displays or signage.

Evaluate direct local competitors by obtaining samples to compare factors like taste, mineral content, and water purity against your own. Identify where potential gaps exist you could fill or areas where you can parallel and then surpass through unique selling points like enhanced filtration methods or custom mineral blends.

Online competitor analysis examines SEO visibility, website engagement metrics, social media followings, and customer sentiment in reviews. Leverage free tools like SEMrush, BuzzSumo, and Facebook Audience Insights to benchmark competitors’ site traffic, top-performing content, and user demographics.

Ongoing monitoring of sales patterns, product line expansions, and marketing campaigns keeps your competitive strategy sharp and adaptive. This vigilance primes you to counter key market threats through greater value offerings tailored to reach more customers. For instance, some competitors may sell their products to liquor stores to complement the products already on offer while others partner with catering businesses to maximize sales.

3. Costs to Start a Bottled Water Business

When launching a bottled water company, significant capital is required, especially on the front end. From sourcing spring water access to bottling equipment to product distribution, expenses add up. We’ll analyze typical start-up and ongoing costs to factor into your business plan.

Start-Up Costs

Securing spring water rights often demands upfront investments starting around $50,000. Licensing and exploratory drilling fees apply, along with hydrology tests to analyze water quality, yields, and sustainability.

Bottling equipment represents a significant expense. Automated machinery for washing, filling, and capping bottles can run $75,000 to $100,000 or more. Additional filtration systems to purify water and monitoring devices cost extra. Allow at least $150,000 total for industrial-scale equipment.

Product testing and reporting must conform to state and federal safety regulations. Initial lab work and analysis averages $1,500. Recurring quarterly testing and reporting may require partnerships with water quality assurance labs.

Branding and package design are critical for shelf appeal and company recognition. Budget around $6,000-$10,000 for logo design, labeling, and prototyping your plastic or glass bottles.

Other expenses include warehouse space leasing, shipping pallets, office furnishings, and legal/professional services for business licensing, contracts, and financing, costing roughly $30,000 in total.

In total, around $250,000 or more provides a reasonable fund for covering core start-up costs. Additional operating capital gives flexibility for overruns.

Ongoing Costs

Raw materials represent water businesses’ highest ongoing expenditure. Sourcing and bottling enough spring water to meet demand, allowing for spillage – called “overage” – runs approximately $0.20 to $0.40 per gallon.

Plastic bottle production, including cap, label, and packaging averages $0.12 to $0.20 per unit. Opting for glass can nearly double per-unit costs. With recycled PET and bulk bottle orders, materials may cost $0.10 per piece.

Depending on production volumes, plan on at least $15,000 to $25,000 monthly for raw materials including water sourcing, bottles, labeling, and packaging.

Warehousing fees are another major line item, with small-operation monthly rates starting around $1,500. Variable storage fees and pallet spacing needs can quickly increase costs though. Depending on business growth, dedicate at least $18,000 but likely more annually.

Ongoing quality control testing will run about $3,000 quarterly. Marketing expenses like trade show participation, sales commissions, and advertising depend on distribution scale but often range from $2,500 monthly for regional bottlers. Account for another $10,000+ annually.

Other recurring operating expenses like equipment maintenance, insurance premiums, administrative fees, and payroll contribute added overhead. Evaluate your organizational blueprint, production goals, and sales territory to accurately forecast costs.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When establishing a bottled water company, the legal structure carries major implications for liability, tax treatment, and ease of expansion. We’ll analyze the key options – sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation – specifically for this industry.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship has simple paperwork and full owner control, but zero liability protection where owners’ assets could be seized.


Partnerships allow pooling resources and splitting profits but still expose personal assets. Difficult to add new partners later without amending complex agreements.

Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)

A limited liability corporation (LLC) emerges as the prime structure for bottled water businesses. LLCs limit owners’ liability, so their homes and bank accounts stay protected. Tax flexibility allows filing as a corporation or pass-through entity. No ownership restrictions facilitate bringing on investors or additional bottling plants under the LLC umbrella. Admin fees of around $100+ annually prove reasonable.


Converting to a C-corporation has appeal for major expansion plans, including potentially going public someday. But double taxation of profits and dividends deter small bottlers. Additionally, increased legal oversight on policies and share distribution must be managed through annual filings. For mid-size operators though, S-corp election retains LLC tax advantages without the C-corp burdens.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Even sole proprietors must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when establishing a formal business. This unique 9-digit number acts like a Social Security Number for your company when opening business bank accounts and filing taxes. EINs are free and easy to obtain directly from the IRS.

As a bottled water provider selling products, you are legally required to furnish an EIN for state sales and excise tax reporting along with federal tax purposes. Follow this streamlined process:

First, have key details handy including your Social Security #, business name, addresses, and the exact format of your business entity (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc). Then simply visit and click “Apply Online Now” for instant EIN confirmation.

Answer a few identification questions about your company and owners through the user-friendly screens. Typically approval takes just 3-4 minutes for immediate access to your EIN. Print/screenshot the notice then add this essential number to your small business bookkeeping files.

There are no EIN application fees when processing directly through the IRS portal. However, some third-party services charging unnecessary fees appear in online searches, so double-check your land at to avoid scams.

With your federal EIN established, contact your state revenue department to formally register for sales tax collection needs relevant to bottled beverage distribution. Basic state registration costs around $50. You’ll need to file regular sales tax reports and payments later on based on taxable transaction volume. However, the EIN serves as the key business identifier throughout federal and state reporting.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Meticulous financial recordkeeping provides the foundation for commercial success and IRS compliance. For bottled water companies, accounting accuracy across production, inventory, sales, and expenses prevents costly errors that erode profitability. Software and professional guidance facilitate managing finances.

Accounting Software

Deploying small business accounting software like QuickBooks allows seamless syncing of bank/credit card transactions into relevant categories for easy tracking. Dashboards and reporting generate real-time visibility on profit drivers like production costs per bottle.

Inventory management integrates with bottling systems and warehouses to track usage. Sales tax calculations are also simplified by linking sales data. At around $25-50 monthly, automation delivers immense time and money savings over manual methods.

Hire an Accountant

Enlisting an accountant’s expertise provides additional quality control for bottlers through services like bookkeeping cleanup, payroll processing, quarterly sales tax filings, and custom reporting on key profit drivers. Expect costs between $200-$500 monthly.

Open a Business Bank Account

Fundamentally, separating finances avoids commingling personal and business transactions that trigger IRS red flags, unnecessary tax burdens, and disputes over who owns what assets. Establish dedicated accounts, cards, and documentation flowing through proper bottling company channels from day one.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

Applying for a small business credit card also makes tracking simpler with consistent monthly statements. Limits up to $100k get extended based on personal credit history and annual revenues. Have your EIN, contact details, and financial statements ready to complete the application.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Before selling your first bottle, proper permissions must be obtained legally and safely operate. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Securing water rights represents the first hurdle but opens access to your primary raw material. Water rights permits apply whether bottling from freshwater springs or drilling wells. Fees vary but licensing confirms approved extraction volumes that regulators monitor to prevent aquifer depletion.

Relatedly, wetlands protections may mandate permits for pipelines traversing protected ecosystems near water access points. Wildlife impact studies and seasonal construction restrictions often apply. Allow 6-9 months for approval.

Food manufacturing permits from departments of health follow since bottled water gets classified as a food product. Annual inspections governed by strict codes for sanitation, purification standards, and production procedures ensure facilities meet GMP benchmarks. Violations risk suspended production and sales.

HACCP compliance takes safety further through hazard prevention plans that systematically mitigate risks like contamination. Develop thorough protocols then prove consistency through compliance audits. Achieving certification takes time but boosts retailer confidence.

Trademark registrations provide legal protections around branding assets like custom bottle packaging and labels that define companies. Register marks used in commerce with state and federal trademark offices. The process takes 6-9 months from application to certificate issuance but then lasts for years once granted. This guards against competitors mimicking your visual identity.

Evaluate zoning regulations when selecting bottling plant locations and warehouse space. Industrial activity permits may be required depending on protocols for chemical storage, noise, waste disposal, and utility demands. Build rapport with local officials early when identifying potential issues.

The path towards legally bottling and selling products has obstacles, from source licensing to safety codes across planning, facilities, and output. However due diligence in researching requirements, hiring specialized lawyers, and allotting sufficient lead time checks the right boxes for approval.

8. Get Business Insurance

Operating a bottled water business carries an array of risks that insurance helps mitigate, from minor equipment failures to catastrophic natural disasters. Policies shield owners against expenses that could otherwise cripple companies or trigger bankruptcy.

Imagine a production line bottleneck that delays a 50,000-unit order, forcing reimbursements to a major retailer. Or a storm flooding your warehouse with thousands of pallets destroyed. Even a visitor slipping on a wet floor could trigger a lawsuit exceeding $100k. Lacking proper coverage, these frequent mishaps could force closures.

General liability insurance protects against bodily injury, property damage, and associated legal claims by those harmed while on-premises or using products. Plans like Business Owner’s Policies (BOPs) bundle general liability with property/casualty coverage plus business interruption insurance to replace income lost from disasters.

Separate policies may cover vehicles, expensive equipment, or specialized risks like product recall expenses if contamination issues arise. Work with an independent insurance agent to review needs and obtain quotes. Expect reasonable plans to run a few thousand dollars annually.

The process begins by inventorying assets and ranking risk exposures. Provide details on properties, vehicles, equipment, staff, and revenue when getting quotes. Inquire about Renaissance Insurance programs for niche ventures. Then select a policy aligning with your risk appetite and premium budget. Pay annually or break payments into installable premiums.

9. Create an Office Space

An office provides a professional hub for bottled water operations – hosting meetings with suppliers, interfacing with quality inspectors, and signing major account contracts. It also houses equipment like printers and offers room for admin work. We’ll analyze options based on cost and functionality.

Home Office

Utilizing a home office makes sense initially through converting a spare bedroom for minimal expenditure – perhaps $100 for a desk and chair plus wifi and utilities. Meetings can occur but lack scale for more than 2-3 people. Still, this allows bootstrapping during early growth stages while establishing operations.

Coworking Office

For client presentations or investor pitches, coworking spaces like WeWork provide sleek meeting rooms with presentation tools for $25-50 per hour depending on extras like video conferencing needs. Some offer private offices starting around $300 monthly with flexible terms. No hassles over the internet, printing, or coffee either.

Warehouse Office

Seeking larger production facilities or warehouse spaces may include build-to-suit office additions averaging $100 per square foot for simple construction. Budget at least $3,000 for a basic 30′ x 20′ space. These integrate operations but don’t facilitate meetings with external parties.

Commercial Office

Over the longer term as staff expands, dedicating $2,000+/month for a traditional 800 sq ft office rental provides requisite space for 4-5 employees, storage needs, and conference rooms to host clients, inspectors, and partners. Expect interpreting services and administrative assistance included along with furnishings, internet, and janitorial with 3-5 year leasing contracts.

10. Source Your Equipment

Launching bottling operations requires production machinery for purification, washing, filling, and packaging. Buying new or used provides ownership, while rental and leases offer flexibility. We’ll explore options to access essential equipment.

Buy New

Purchasing brand-new automated bottling equipment from manufacturers like Specialty Equipment enables customizing multi-stage systems from filtration to label applications tailored to output targets. Expect prices from $75,000 to $150,000+ for complete lines. Finance through equipment leasing if cash-strapped.

Buy Used

Buying used machinery cuts costs by 30-50% while still getting solid equipment. Vet condition, servicing records, and output rates when evaluating listings around $50,000. Factor in some reconditioning costs too.


Instead of buying equipment, leasing through an equipment finance company gains usage without major capital investments. These loans cover 80% at fixed monthly payments structured around project revenue timelines. Tax write-offs apply as with purchases.


Long-term leases spanning several years provide more flexible terms over rentals if planning to scale production substantially. The lessor assumes maintenance responsibility too. Expect roughly $5,000 monthly for a complete system.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinct brand identity sets bottled water ventures apart while conveying purity and quality promises. Professional branding assets prompt consumer awareness and preference to drive sales.

Get a Business Phone Number

Getting a unique business phone number using providers like RingCentral shows commitment beyond personal mobiles. Expect a local or toll-free number with call routing features like voicemail transcription for $30-50 monthly. This grants credibility when contacting suppliers, clients, and property managers.

Design a Logo

A polished logo acts as the lead brand ambassador applied to all touchpoints. Consider an abstract mark evoking droplets or a memorable illustrative icon to reference fresh springs. Brand system extensions like stationery, uniforms, and fleet branding create cohesion.

Services like Looka assist by providing full branding packages including a logo with alternate versions, a brand guide, social media assets, website graphics, and business card design from $149. This turnkey solution expedites the launch.

Print Business Cards

Ensuring sales reps and executives have professionally printed cards from Vistaprint lends further validation when meeting buyers, networking at trade events, or negotiating with vendors. Include essential contact and web details along with a descriptor like “Purveyors of Natural Spring Water”.

Obtain a Domain Name

Secure the business name as a .com domain for branding continuity and an online destination. Use .com over alternatives like .biz and include keywords like “water”. Namecheap runs under $15 annually for domains. Redirect it to a coming soon page until a full website launches.

Design a Website

Building that dedicated website as an online brochure explains the brand story, showcases products, and profiles company values. Utilize templates from Wix to DIY for $20-40 monthly. Or hire web developers on Fiverr to custom craft sites from $500. This digital footprint supports 24/7 sales enablement.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Tapping into local networks multiplies opportunities through camaraderie, elevated expertise, and partnerships. We’ll explore helpful associations, events, and online groups to enrich startups.

Local Associations

Joining a local chapter of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) guides safety regulations plus advocacy for the industry. Annual memberships start under $500. The Pennsylvania Bottled Water Association runs around $350 per year for in-state connectivity.

Local Meetups

Attend trade events like the Bottled Water Expo allowing networking with major equipment vendors and fellow bottlers. This fuels innovation through witnessing cutting-edge machinery first-hand while building strategic relationships. Use Meetup to find similar regional events.

Facebook Group

Facebook communities like Water Bottle Wholesale Buy or Sell provide forums to crowdsource advice on production techniques, quality assurance, equipment questions, and regulator relations from thousands nationally. Trusted answers result.

13. How to Market a Bottled Water Business

Implementing an integrated marketing strategy combines digital promotion and real-world outreach to exponentially expand bottled water visibility and sales. We’ll explore proven tactics to connect with more customers.


Personal Networking

Recognize existing friends and family as initial brand ambassadors to organically spread awareness through interactions and referrals. Incentivize sharing by providing discounts for referring new accounts that convert to loyal buyers.

Digital Marketing

  • Digital channels then facilitate cost-efficient outreach and conversions at scale.
  • Consider Google Ads campaigns geo-targeting local searchers of services like office water delivery or hotel amenities. Expect to pay $2-5 per click.
  • Facebook and Instagram ads also allow laser-focus on demographics like health-conscious millennials. Budget $100 monthly testing each platform.
  • Launching an email newsletter or SMS campaign nurtures leads by providing value-added content like infused water recipes and reuse ideas for empties.
  • Automate messaging through providers like MailChimp with segmentation by buyer types.
  • Getting seen by channel partners like retailers, hotels and offices often requires old-school direct mail and sales letter outreach.
  • Create professional sell sheets extolling health safety certifications, community roots, and equipment investments as proof of quality and reliability.
  • Target key accounts for incremental wholesale relationships.
  • Hitting the streets with branded giveaways at local festivals, 5K runs, and wellness fairs raises awareness while making community connections.
  • Tabling at these events markets both products and purpose.

For ongoing nurturing, launch a YouTube channel creating weekly content like quick recipes or reuse crafts using empties. Optimized video titles can rank highly in Search results. Encourage subscriber sign-ups.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional tactics still prove worthwhile:

  • Print local paper coupons to counter big brand mass market domination
  • Negotiate an endorsement from a celebrity or athlete with local ties
  • Explore highway billboard visibility during seasonal road trips

An integrated methodology blending digital and real-world marketing sustains awareness and interest while optimizing budget efficiency. Analyze campaign performance to double down on what moves the needle most. Through multi-channel outreach, even tiny brands can make big ripples.

14. Focus on the Customer

Providing exceptional customer service cements bottled water loyalty even amid commodity competition. Experiences determine repurchasing and referrals, directly driving growth.

For delivery accounts like offices, ensure consistency through prompt arrivals within precise time windows to avoid work disruptions. Also follow up post-delivery to address spills, leakage issues, or mismatches between orders and receipts. These service touches feel personal despite routine transactions.

Likewise, for hospitality and events clients, customized branded water bottles make promotional activations feel special. Accommodating last-minute catering increases or flexible minimums wins you preferential vendor status. Consider also that you can sell your products to vending machine businesses or stores that utilize these machines to increase sales.

For individuals, promotional giveaways like reusable bottles help, but personal notes or birthday coupon mailers make bigger impressions with minimal effort.

Getting the product right earns business, but getting the service right gains loyalty even despite higher prices. This emotional equity triggers referrals – a satisfied gym owner raving about your flexibility prompts a restaurant owner to trial your services.

Bland brands risk commoditization where choice gets dictated by case price alone. But those providing memorable customer experiences create preferences worth paying more for. A premium for personalized service produces higher lifetime values.

Keep communicating, learn client priorities, correct issues quickly, and sprinkle in surprises to delight. Water may be simple, but customer service leaves lasting impressions that better-bottled water businesses bank on.

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