Air Up: Revolutionizing Hydration with Scent and Sustainability

Air Up: Revolutionizing Hydration with Scent and Sustainability

In Air Up's water bottle design, the mouthpiece is angled upwards towards the user's face, encircled by the flavor pod. Over this, a screw-on cap is fitted to effectively retain the scent within the pod. Photo courtesy of Air Up.

Air Up, a revolutionary water bottle company, emerged from a unique academic project and rapidly transformed the way we perceive and consume water. Founded by a team of five, including Tim, Lena, Fabian, Jannis and Simon, the Munich-based startup began as a university project in 2016, combining neuroscience and design. By 2019, the Air Up bottle was launched in its home country, paving the way for a new era in hydration​​.

The technology behind the Air Up bottle is as fascinating as its origin. It’s the first hydration system that flavors water solely through scent. This innovative approach leverages the fact that about 80 percent of what we perceive as flavor actually comes from our sense of smell.

The Air Up bottle uses retronasal smelling to bring flavor to plain water. When users drink from the bottle, the ‘flavored’ air from the scent pods mixes with the water, creating a taste experience without actually flavoring the water itself. These scents are derived from natural ingredients like fruits, spices and herbs, and applied to an air-permeable material known as “fleece.”

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Initially introduced to the German market with five flavors in 2019, the Air Up bottle witnessed overwhelming success, selling 80,000 starter sets in just six weeks. The company’s growth continued through the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding to Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, Sweden​​​​​​ and the US.

The uniqueness of the Air Up bottle lies not only in its innovative scent technology but also in its appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer. By offering a sensory experience without the need for actual flavored liquids, Air Up provides a sustainable alternative to traditional flavored beverages, helping to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bottles.

The company also recently launched a new collection of reusable bottles in the European market, underscoring its commitment to sustainability. The Air Up Generation 2 bottles are produced in the European Union (EU) using facilities powered entirely by renewable energy. These bottles use up to 88 percent less plastic compared to single-use plastic bottles. The range includes sizes of 2.5 cups and 4.2 cups.

In terms of investment, Air Up has attracted significant attention and funding. It raised a total of €58 million (approximately $63 million) across five rounds of funding led by Five Seasons Ventures, with contributions from existing investors like PepsiCo, Ippen.Media and Oyster Bay. This financial backing has enabled Air Up to accelerate its expansion across Europe and the US, extend its product portfolio and establish production facilities to serve an international customer base​​​​.

What sets the Air Up bottle apart from other water bottles is its blend of technology, sustainability and health consciousness. By creating a product that is both innovative and environmentally friendly, Air Up has carved out a unique niche in the beverage industry. Its ability to deliver flavor through scent alone represents a significant leap forward in our understanding and enjoyment of hydration, making every sip flavorful without compromising health or the environment.

The journey of the Air Up bottle, from a university project to a global sensation, showcases the power of innovative thinking and the potential of technology to transform everyday experiences. As Air Up continues to expand and evolve, it stands as a testament to the possibilities that lie at the intersection of science, design and sustainability.