Swiss Army Bottle
By targeting health shops and outdoor stores with its fanciful flasks, Sigg has won a growing piece of a hot market.
By Benjamin Tice Smith

(FORTUNE Small Business) – SIGG'S ALUMINUM WATER BOTTLES, COUSINS OF THE CANTEENS the Swiss army packed with those famous knives, have been gaining ground in the U.S. market since the Swiss company was purchased three years ago by Riverside. Sigg containers, which sell for $15 to $25 in stores and online, come in a Swatch-like selection of more than 140 shapes and styles, including demonic skulls, mod prints, and tot-sized bottles emblazoned with Hello Kitty characters. Here's how Sigg is dousing the competition.

CONTROL THE FLOW To give the bottles more exposure, the company took over U.S. distribution from a local outfit and last year hired Steve Wasik, a marketing whiz and a veteran of Chanel and Naya Water, as president and general manager of Sigg USA. Sigg has since increased the number of venues where its products are sold from 400 to 850.

RIDE THE WAVE Summer 2006 was great for water bottles—researchers say total U.S. revenue in July was up 37% from the year before. By selling through retailers, including Eastern Mountain Sports, REI, and L.L. Bean, Sigg got a big piece of the action. Though Wasik won't give specifics, he says Sigg's bottle sales were up 90% last year.

GO NATURAL Sigg courted health shops, where the company's recyclable containers are a natural fit—and it should benefit if several states continue to question the safety of chemicals released by some plastic bottles. Elephant Pharmacy in eco-correct Berkeley says Sigg sales have risen about 70% in a year, to 250 per month.