Qua: Is It a Nightclub, or Is It Bottled Water?

PepsiCo shoots for the stars with its own sexified H2O.

(Photo: Marc Gutierrez/Getty Images)

Jan 16, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Just in time for Hollywood awards season, here comes another trendy wannabe that product pushers are hoping to get into the hands of celebs (and maybe—OMG!—into the pages of Us Weekly).

We give you: Qua.

Say what? It just looks like bottled water, you say?

Well, it is. Purified tap water, to be exact. And it’s bottled by PepsiCo—but shhh! That kind of spoils the mystique, doesn’t it?

The svelte bottle and coy monosyllabic name are PepsiCo’s bid to break into the more lucrative premium bottled water category. Whereas a mere generation ago, opting for any kind of bottled water was itself a luxury (like chunky mobile phones in cars or CD players), today bottled water is a dime a dozen—give or take.

While Coke and Pepsi do brisk business stocking convenience stores and vending machines with Dasani and Aquafina, respectively, what once seemed like a daft-but-genius idea of taking municipal tap water, running it through a filter or two, and then pouring it into a bottle isn’t as profitable as it appears. As The New York Times reported last year: “Cases of 24 half-liter bottles of store-brand water can be had for $2, or about 8 cents a bottle, and some grocery store chains even are using waters as loss leaders to attract customers, teeing up shopping carts with a case already on board.”

PepsiCo’s chief financial officer, Hugh F. Johnson, even seemed to quash (get it? qua-sh) any rumors that the company would expand its bottled water offerings. “We don’t think it creates value over time,” he told the Times.

But never underestimate the corporate capacity to market the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes to the American public—especially if the PR flak can get movie stars to quaff it on the red carpet (qua-ff—OK, now I’m just getting annoying).

No word on whether Qua will make an appearance at the Oscars, but it did make a cameo at the Golden Globes, where it graced the tables, according to the Associated Press. (Though you can be forgiven for overlooking it, because everyone was blinded by Lena Dunham’s dress.)

The name is somehow quintessentially L.A., like it was borrowed from a velvet-roped lounge or a tony day spa—a vaguely meditative-sounding but utterly vapid syllable. It’s PepsiCo’s second stab at it—"Om" was the first—and it may not be the last, a company spokesperson tells the AP.

While some may wonder whether PepsiCo blatantly (and, when you think about it, kind of brilliantly) semi–ripped off the word “quan” from Jerry Maguire, the real source of the name is as prosaic as the bottle’s glorified-tap-water contents: “a shortened version of the word ‘aqua,’ ” reports the AP.

But it’s still sexy, right?