The Untold Truth Of Szent Water

Our beverage preferences have evolved over the past decade. Sales of flavored sparkling waters are up, while soda is down (via The Washington Post). Consumers are drawn to the health advantages that come from replacing sugary soda with hydrating, zero-calorie bubbly water. They're also attracted to the variety in store-bought water, both the sparkling and still kinds. We can choose from many different flavors, and we can buy water with added antioxidants or caffeine – or even CBD, which is the second active ingredient in cannabis after THC.

Essentially, we've progressed from fattening, cavity-causing Pepsi and Coke, with a lot of sweetness and flavor, to LaCroix – zero calories and a flavor that registers at close to zero, too. As one viral tweet put it a couple of years ago, "LaCroix taste like if you were drinking carbonated water and someone screamed out loud the name of a specific fruit in the other room."

It's easy to see why Szent might be the next step in our beverage evolution. This product is just water: no bubbles, no sugar, no flavor – nothing. Szent, pronounced like "scent," is a $2.25 bottle of plain water purified through reverse osmosis (via Food Ingredients First). The gimmick or the innovation is in the scent ring near the top of the plastic bottle. The ring contains a natural oil whose odor evokes one of five flavors: mint, passionfruit, tangerine, tropical, or pineapple.

Szent is available at Amazon and certain California stores

Szent introduced its water in October 2018, and it originally was available only through Amazon. Water with a scented ring showed enough promise during its first few months on the market that the original investor group agreed to shell out another $2.2 million to Szent in early 2019, according to Food Ingredients First. The company was planning to use that money to move beyond online sales and into stores, but it's hard to learn which stores sell Szent today. The company website's FAQ page says Szent is available at "select retailers in the state of California" and invites you to search for stores on their product-locator page. But that page currently doesn't appear to work.

Szent's Instagram account is more helpful. The homepage says their water is available at Gelson's Markets, which has 27 locations in southern California. An Instagram post from September reported that Szent would be sold in Aldi stores, too. Yet another Szent Instagram post from September announced the water's arrival at Lazy Acres Natural Market, which has five SoCal locations.

The company also said it would use part of that $2.2 million cash infusion to come up with a sparkling version of Szent. However, a line of water that would compete head-to-head with LaCroix hasn't shown up yet on the company's products page.

Reviewers: Szent is either "really cool" or "spendy water"

Szent hasn't generated much buzz on social media since its introduction, but you can find some reviews online. As of this writing, more than half of Szent's 144 Amazon reviews gave the scented water five stars out of five. "This stuff is really cool!" William Restis' five-star review said. "The scented bottle tricks your brain. It's like the ghost of passion fruit every time you take a sip. It's there, and then it's gone with no aftertaste." Many of the negative reviews were from people who claimed the scent rings didn't give them the advertised illusion of taste. "Apparently my tastebuds cannot be tricked," read the two-star review from skrattypants. "It just tastes like water to me, and spendy water at that."

A more thorough review at BevNET said Szent was OK, for what it was. BevNET gave Szent three out of five stars. "Szent's approach to using smell isn't as strong as the experience you get from flavorings. But there is certainly something to be said for a product that truly doesn't contain anything," BevNET said. "Finally, we question whether this product is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist in a broad way or that consumers don't yet know that they need. ... Szent will have to do some serious education to get traction for this product." Two years later, and it seems that more education and more traction are still needed – along with a sparkling version of Szent.