A former marketing executive living in Bend, Daniel Egeland thinks there should be more to a reusable water bottle than branding.

So with backing from friends Drew Bledsoe and Chris and Jeremy Cox, Egeland launched Be Bottle, which claims to be the first insulated stainless steel bottle with a removable bottom. The Be Bottle team hopes that innovation, along with a broadly appealing design, will bring them an even larger market than hometown favorite Hydro Flask or S’well.

“We didn’t want to come out with a me-too product,” Egeland said in a recent interview at The Loft in downtown Bend with Bledsoe and the Cox brothers, co-founders of 10 Barrel Brewing.

Market research found that consumers’ leading gripe about water bottles is that they’re hard to clean, Egeland said. Most companies address the problem by giving the bottle owner a “toilet brush,” he said, or creating a wide mouth, which spills drinks everywhere. So he was determined to come up with a removable bottom.

“We set out on a path,” he said. “That’s got to be the innovation.”

Be Bottle’s main product is an 18-ounce bottle in white, pink or black for $48. Egeland declined to say how many have been sold so far, but he said the first shipment from Asia was spoken for before it reached the company headquarters in New Jersey. Be Bottle will sell mainly online, directly to consumers, or to corporations for their in-house promotions, he said.

“We blew out our first order before it even landed,” he said.

While Be Bottle is banking on innovation, Egeland said the company is also marketing to a customer base that hasn’t been captured by Hydro Flask or S’well, the $50 million company that makes bottles in myriad solid colors and patterns. “No guy wants to carry a S’well,” Egeland said.

And while Hydro Flask is popular on the West Coast, Egeland, who lives part of the year in Pennsylvania, doesn’t think it appeals to the average urbanite back east.

“This looks like a camping bottle,” he said, pointing to a Hydro Flask. “You wouldn’t put a sticker on our bottle.”

Of course, there are now dozens of reusable water bottles on the market. In the insulated stainless steel category alone, Be Bottle faces competition from Klean Kanteen, Miir, Sigg and Yeti. In case the price tag wasn’t a clue, Be Bottle is going after a consumer who wants something that looks and feels high-end. The carrying handle is attached with titanium screws, Egeland said.

“We wanted to build a functional fashion accessory,” he said.

Because of companies like S’well, people are willing to spend a lot of money on bottles now, said Jesse Chebot, co-founder of Clean Bottle in Boston. “It’s becoming a badge item, like a handbag or a watch. People identify with the brand.”

Chebot credited S’well, which sells its 17-ounce bottle for $35, for sparking the change in consumer spending habits. “They branded their product very effectively,” he said.

Clean Bottle, founded in 2010, already makes plastic bottles with a patented removable bottom. The company also introduced a stainless steel bottle several years ago, Chebot said, but stopped making it because at the time, the $40 item was seen as too expensive.

Be Bottle’s marketing so far includes a Kickstarter campaign, which concluded in December, and the efforts of its well-connected partners. Bledsoe, the former NFL quarterback, starred in the company’s promotional video, and he’s selling the bottles at his Doubleback winery in Walla Walla, Washington. Be Bottle dubbed its pink color “rosé gold” as a nod to wine.

Meanwhile, the Cox brothers, who sold 10 Barrel to Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014 but continue to run the company, are talking up Be Bottle’s forthcoming growler to friends in the beer industry. The removable bottom is appealing because it means growlers will be easier to clean, Chris Cox said.

“There’s a lot of breweries that are excited about this bottle coming out,” he said.

Be Bottles also come with an infuser, which can be stuffed with fruit or tea leaves to flavor water. The infuser also allows a beer lover to add dry hops to the growler, he said.

“There’s not a growler out there that does this,” Jeremy Cox said.

The Be Bottle ownership group also includes CEO Simon Hooks of West Caldwell, New Jersey, and Jeff Persinger of Pennsylvania. Egeland declined to say how much they’ve spent to launch the product. The partnership’s financial resources allowed the company to go from concept to commercial product in a little more than two years.

Egeland was still involved with his former company, BioPharm Communications, when he began working on Be Bottle in late 2015, so they hired Hooks as CEO, he said. Hooks also runs CCG Marketing Solutions, which has allowed Be Bottle to use its 600,000 square-foot warehouse, Egeland said.

“We’ve been able to get from idea to a salable product for not much money,” Bledsoe said.

To come up with Be Bottle’s design, Egeland tapped his connections in the cycling world. He’s a triathlete who is also an investor in the Bend-based bicycle wheel maker Knight Composites. So he turned to Toronto bicycle designer Kevin Quan for help. Egeland is named as inventor on Be Bottle’s patent applications, he said.

When it comes to selling Be Bottle, Egeland is again counting on connections. He expects most of the company’s initial sales will stem from corporate promotional programs. With the partners’ connections in the corporate world, he said, “We can go introduce this to one of our friends and move 5,000 bottles with one phone call.”

In fact, corporate swag that Egeland used to buy from Hydro Flask is what inspired him to try to design a better bottle in the first place. In 2015, Hydro Flask stopped offering custom engraving, except for companies in certain categories, like coffee shops. A Hydro Flask spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Egeland thought Hydro Flask’s move away from corporate co-branding was a mistake because companies are looking for premium products that people will continue using.

“Let’s go after the space Hydro Flask walked away from,” he said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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