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What happened to drinking water?

When Brigette Ramírez and her family traveled to Houston to attend a Taylor Swift concert, she made a very important pit stop. Three, actually: TJ Maxx, TJ Maxx, and TJ Maxx.

max Ramirez, 33, an 11th-grade US history teacher, was looking for the sugar-free syrups that her fellow flavored water enthusiasts had pulled from the only TJ Maxx near her South Texas home.

His plan was to add them to tap water, pour the mixture into a stanley glassfilm yourself doing it and (hopefully) go viral on TikTok.

“I ended up finding really good syrups there,” he said.

In this latest chapter of America’s obsession with hydration, the thirsty are drinking tap water for all to see on TikTok under the banner of #WaterTok. They are elaborately arranged.”water bars” stocked with sugar-free syrups, low-calorie powders flavored with Skittles and Nerds candy, and brightly colored glasses.

Some have become influential people in the process. Just one of these water experts’ “recipes”—three squirts of this, a packet of that—has the power to significantly boost sales. Several water flavoring companies said they have sold their products in recent months and revenue is rising as a result.

“There was a time when our Stubborn coconut pineapple sold out for a few weeks because some people were doing a dole whip drink with him,” said Neel Premkumar, the founder of Stubbornthat sells drink mixes that use natural ingredients.

He said Stur’s revenue has more than doubled in the first four months of this year compared to the last four months of 2022.

The company was founded 14 years ago and has experienced growth during the course of the pandemic, said Dana Paris, its chief marketing officer. But #WaterTok “helped propel Jordan’s Skinny Mixes from this secret little brand to a more household name,” she said. In April, e-commerce sales were up 143 percent compared to last year.

Their website opens with a banner acknowledging the trend: “Ride on the WAVE while we (and all of TikTok) get deliciously hydrated!” It also includes an apology when a customer is going to order: “NOTICE: EXPECT DELAYED SHIPPING.”

in a private Facebook group dedicated to Skinny Mixesenthusiasts trade tips on where to buy the syrups and trade water recipes.

Meagan Anderson, a lifestyle influencer in her 40s who makes #WaterTok videos and lives outside of Fort Worth, Texas, said people will go to three different stores just to look for flavors.

“The shelves are running out,” said Ms Anderson, 48.

Sales of ToraniUnsweetened coconut syrup has doubled since March, said Andrea Ramirez, customer and consumer market insight manager. The company has been around since 1925 and is perhaps most famous for its coffee flavorings.

Last month, Ms. Ramírez conducted some primary research on the water trend “because it was a very strange phenomenon,” she said. She presented her findings with a PowerPoint titled “Let’s talk about WATERTOK”.

the trend was initially met with ridicule across the internet, and critics have dismissed #WaterTok enthusiasts as “hummingbirds,” which several influencers said felt sexist.

Promoters of these syrups and powders often have their own affiliate links for the products, and the sponsorship component has also inspired some reaction, said Tiffany Ferguson, creator of the YouTube show “Internet Analysis,” in which she deep dives in popular trends online.

“You’re like: ‘What’s in it for you?’” said Ms. Ferguson, 27. “’Why are you so excited? Why are you acting like this water is your church?’”

If #WaterTok is a cult, hydration is a national religion.

In the last decade or so, water flavoring offerings have exploded in the United States, where Big Soda has dominated the American palate for generations.

These water additive companies frame the products, which are often made with artificial sweeteners and flavors, as a way to help people meet their hydration goals. It’s the logic of Mary Poppins: a spoonful of (unsweetened coconut syrup) makes the (tap water) go down.

“For me, I feel like it’s drinking my own saliva,” Mx said. Ramirez, the South Texas history professor, from the tap water.

“In my house, we were avid drinkers of Dr Pepper Zero or Diet Coke”, Mx. Ramirez said. “Avid. Like we buy in bulk.” Since switching to flavored water, he said, three cases of soft drinks have sat untouched in the pantry.

#WaterTok is also associated with gastric surgery. Patients are not supposed to drink carbonated beverages after weight-loss surgery, so unflavored beverages can be a hydration tool, especially for patients who previously relied on soft drinks.

“Everyone is trying to drink more water,” he said Tonya Spanglo, 45, who underwent weight loss surgery three years ago and is arguably the most recognizable face on #WaterTok. “This is just a fun way to do something we’re already doing.”

Online hydration talk is inseparable from diet culture.

The hashtag #WaterTok is often placed alongside #WeightLoss as influencers highlight hydration as a key tool in their quest to lose weight. On Monday, the The World Health Organization warns against the use of artificial sweeteners for weight loss, saying that continued consumption could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and adult mortality.

And one question remains: Is any of it water?

“I have a pause about calling this ‘water,’” said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, a Harvard obesity physician and scientist. “Because it’s not just water.”

The water, he kindly defined, is “what you would expect if you showered or washed your hands.”

“Water is the base,” he said. “But water is also the base for soft drinks.”

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