Several U.S. companies have either launched hydrogen water products or will soon debut them in an attempt to lure consumers seeking natural, functional products, according to BevNet.
These brands — Dr. Perricone's, HTwo, HFactor and HyVIDA — make functional claims that adding tasteless and odorless molecular hydrogen gas to water provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The infused water is also believed to increase energy and reduce muscle recovery time.
BevNET noted that manufacturers of hydrogen water must tread carefully with on-package labeling pending more pertinent human scientific studies backing up their claims.
It will take time and scientific investment to reach a consensus on whether drinking water infused with hydrogen can impact health in a meaningful way. The majority of research in the area has been performed on animals, and there isn't enough scientific evidence to validate wellness claims around the product.
Still, hydrogen water brands are crowding into the innovative space with items costing up to $3 for a 8.3-ounce can, like Dr. Perricone's products. And at-home hydrogen machines and molecular hydrogen tablets that can transform normal drinking water are also on the rise, suggesting that this lucrative sector has room to grow — even if hydrogen water's health benefits are only perceived.
Hydrogen water is a big deal in Japan, according to Time magazine. The Japanese government has OK'd hydrogen-infused saline drips to aid those recovering from infection or other health issues, and spas in Japan offer bathing in hydrogen water as a way to reduce wrinkles and treat skin damage.
In the U.S., hydrogen water beverages face two practical problems. One is that the level of added hydrogen varies in different products, and there's no regulatory oversight requiring a standardized level. The closest to any regulation is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2014 approval of generally recognized as safe status for hydrogen gas — in drinking water, flavored beverages and sodas at up to 2.14% by volume — for HTwo's parent company.
The other problem is that hydrogen tends to leak through glass or plastic containers, so products need to be consumed fairly quickly after opening to receive the advertised benefits. As a result, HFactor has been using an aluminum-lined hydropack and HTwo uses a four-sided pouch, while Dr. Perricone's and HyVIDA use cans.
In 2016, bottled water surpassed other beverages such as soda as the most popular drink in the U.S. And while the purported health benefits of hydrogen water might intrigue the category's core consumer base of millennials, athletes and those who appreciate beverage variety, the product's price point could be an obstacle. Consumers may not want to shell out extra money for extra hydrogen unless they're convinced the benefits are real.
Other infused water products are doing well in the market, though. Vapor-distilled Smartwater — made by a Coca-Cola subsidiary doing business as Glacéau, or Energy Brands — racked up $821 million in sales during the past 52 weeks, according to the IRI market research group.
At the moment, hydrogen water is really a niche product. And, like many health-related niche products, it will enjoy a certain cachet as educational, marketing and outreach campaigns run their course, but it likely won't make a splash in the mainstream until remaining questions are fully answered.