It would take a miracle to dethrone the kings of the bottled water business. But the US company behind Bobble has a magic trick up its sleeve, writes Rob Brown

Big boys of bottled water, beware. There's a young American looking to drain some of the value from your market. It's not mineral water, but the makers of Bobble a reusable bottle claim it can filter tap water to a purity that rivals it. Having hit Harvey Nichols last month, New York-based brand-owner Move Collective is gearing up for a UK-wide roll-out.

"Sales have been outstanding," says Richard Smiedt, Move Collective founder and CEO. "Demand at Harvey Nichols was so intense that presales meant we had to update our inventory ahead of the stock even arriving. We're looking for substantial growth throughout the UK."

Bobble is fitted with a carbon filter that removes chlorine and contaminants from tap water and can be used up to 300 times before the filter needs replacing. Sceptics might suggest Smiedt has been drinking something stronger than filtered water if he believes he can wrestle a share of the market from such giants as Volvic and Evian with a 500ml reusable plastic bottle, selling for £10 a piece. But he believes he can tap into one powerful driver of consumer purchasing they can't shame.

"There's guilt when people buy bottled water," he says. "People, particularly in the US where less than 15% of households ­recycle, are not very good recyclers. But they are starting to think about the impact this has on the planet."

In Britain, the recycling rate for plastic bottles is around 35% and more than 80% of water comes in them. Consumer concern over the countless bottles buried in the ground each year has led to a backlash. Leeds University students banned bottled water sales in campus outlets in 2008, and one small town in Australia followed suit this year. Bobble looks set to cash in on this groundswell of opinion.

Created by designer Karim Rashid who has previously worked for Veuve Clicquot, Dirt Devil and Samsung it is available in a range of colours, to appeal to mineral water's lifestyle-conscious audience.

"We have taken a product that, while not mundane, is certainly similar to others, and transformed it," says Smiedt, who has more than 20 years' experience in consumer goods brands. "It's rare that products have such a wide consumer base and that the design has had such acceptance."

Bobble was launched stateside in February and has made it on to the shelves of such major retailers as Bloomingdale's, Masons and American Apparel. Smiedt expects US unit sales to pass the one million mark in the next few weeks. In the UK, talks are underway with the big four multiples as well as a number of non-food stores and retailers in Europe.

"The picture here for us isn't just how many products we are selling. It's the first consumer product that has really given people an alternative to bottled water. It's the first product that has been adopted on such a scale by major retailers. We've got something that certainly appeals."

The prospect of a reusable plastic bottle retailing for a tenner denting the £585m-plus retail bottled water market might seem hard to swallow, but then again, so is the cost of all those dumped bottles to the planet.