Unit 8 Rates

Water Taste Test

Water Taste Test

An Explanation

It all started when Cody (my former roommate for several years) and I were in an honors strategic management class. Our professor was talking about product differentiation, and said there were some industries in which brands could not differentiate themselves from their competitors. He gave water as an example, claiming that all bottled water is essentially the same.
Of course, Cody and I were infuriated. As athletes, we have consumed our fair share of water (and Gatorade, but that’s a story for another time), and we very adamantly believed that all water is NOT created equal. Thus, our water taste test was born.

The Test

We collected water for a good while, storing it until we could finally find time to conduct our test. Life got busy, and before long, it was time for everyone to move out of our apartment.

The Five Judges (from L>R): Cody, CJ, Payne, Trevor, Isaac (me)
The Five Judges (from L>R): Cody, CJ, Payne, Trevor, Isaac (me)

We gathered as many of the Unit 8 roommates (we’ve had 12 over the years) as possible, and prepared our test. The brands we collected included:

  • App State Campus Bottle Water (bottled in Deep Gap, NC)
  • Deer Park
  • Dasani
  • Aquafina
  • Smart Water
  • Nestle Pure Life
  • Great Value (Walmart)
  • Kirkland’s (Costco)
  • Hawaiian Springs
  • Just Water (boxed water)
  • Pure & Pristine (TJ Maxx Glacier Water)
  • Food Lion
  • Fiji
  • Sam’s Choice (Sam’s Club)
  • 365 Electrolyte Water
  • Cloninger Ford Water (Piedmont Springs)
  • Boone Tap Water


Cody and the Publix Orange Sherbet
Cody and the Publix Orange Sherbet

We gathered round in our living room on whatever chairs we could find (since most of the furniture was already gone). I had attempted to find lemon sorbet or those wine-tasting crackers as a palette-cleanser, but was not successful. Instead, we ended up with Publix-brand orange sherbet, which actually worked very well.

Cleansing our palettes
Cleansing our palettes

Our methods were as follows:

  • Cody’s wife, Morgan, filled up identical small plastic cups, labeled 1-17, with samples of each type of water and Boone tap water.
  • Each type of water was at room temperature.
  • The judges–Isaac Church, Cody McKinney, Trevor Gragg, Alex Payne, and Charles Ashley “CJ” Hinshaw, Jr.–each recorded our responses on a sheet without knowing the marks of the other judges.
  • Before trying each water, we each took a small spoonful of orange sherbet to ensure that we removed all the previous tastes from our mouths and had a uniform starting point.
  • We rated each water 1-10 on three different points: Purity, Taste, and Overall Satisfaction.
  • I totaled the scores from all five participants and ranked each water based on the overall score from the five judges.
Morgan (The Controller)
Morgan (The Controller)
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

For those of you who don’t get the accounting joke, I’m sorry. Moving on…


Pondering the flavor of water
Pondering the flavor of water

Unfortunately, I was not able to record the comments from each judge, which were quite hilarious and insightful. It’s quite amazing how many times we guessed certain brands of water, especially the ones near the bottom of the list.

Taste-testing aftermath
Taste-testing aftermath

Final Scores

After some careful consideration, and lots of painstaking data entry, we came up with shockingly similar results for most of the waters. Our favorite was unanimous (and not really all that close), as were the least favorites. I’ll let you read the results chart, and then I’ll discuss the results.

The Final Results!
The Final Results!
Kirkland’s (Niagara Bottling from Costco), was the clear favorite. Interestingly, the #2 result, Great Value (Walmart), is also Niagara Bottling. I was shocked that Boone Tap Water ranked so highly. Most of these results didn’t surprise us, other than Smart Water ranking so poorly. No one was surprised that Deer Park and Nestle were terrible, and several of us were even able to identify then in our notes.
Who knows if this actually tells you anything, but I believe that it does because the results were so uniform. I didn’t run any error/other statistical analysis on it, because frankly I don’t care, so I’m just going to use my best judgment for determining the validity of the results. I know what type of water I’ll be buying from now on, at least.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts about water in the comments below. Until next time, farewell from “Unit 8 Rates”. Who knows, we might do some more semi-pointless reviews in the future.

I would like to give a shoutout to Charlie Day and Nick Bonilla, who were not able to be present for the testing. You were with us in spirit.

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