What’s the difference between Perrier and San Pellegrino?

Claire | March 12th, 2012

Upon first sip, a seasoned conoisseur of bubbly water may notice that Perrier has bigger bubbles, whereas San Pellegrino’s bubbles are of a finer more delicate texture.   Both brands of water come from natural mineral sources and are embellished with an addition of carbon dioxide.  Perrier is, in fact, certified by the French government as a natural mineral water, which means that it has a stable composition of ‘healthy properties’.  San Pellegrino, however, not only contains minerals, but can actually claim to have some naturally occurring bubbles (although they are indeed enhanced substantially by the addition of carbon dioxide).

Perrier is technically completely ‘naturally’ carbonated, but the process of its carbonation is rather convoluted.  Let me explain: the volcanic gases that make the bubbles in your Perrier actually bubble beneath the source of the spring water.  Therefore to capture the gases, they are first extracted separately, then natural impurities are filtered out, and, during the bottling process the bubbles are infused into the water which has been taken from the spring.

If you drink a lot of bubbly water, you  may observe that if you open a bottle of San Pellegrino and don’t finish it until the next day, it will have a distinctively salty taste and overnight most of the bubbles will disappear.  Perrier doesn’t seem to pose the same kind of problems.  It is also worthwhile to note that Perrier comes from France and San Pellegrino from Italy.  Therefore, if you are choosing your water according to political affiliation, this is a key detail you may want to consider.

So hence a conoisseur may be faced with any of the following dilemmas:

1) I prefer the smaller bubbles of San Pellegrino, but I may not finish the entire bottle right now.  What do I do?

2) Perrier seems to cost less in North America and is much more widely distributed.  But I want Pellegrino!

3) I want my bubbles to be reliable – to last long and prosper.

4) Which one is better?

Ultimately, as with many such philosophical conundrums, there are no easy answers.  Do you prefer big bubbles, or smaller ones?  Do you mind paying $1.69 a bottle for San Pel?  Or does that extra discount of 44 to 69 cents make a big difference in your life?  Are you so accustomed to the size of bubbles that you like that you are open to buying mini-bottles in order to preserve the feel of their delicate textures on your tastebuds?  Or maybe you like big bubbles and the little ones make annoying sensations on your tongue?

If you were basing your decision on advertising alone, Perrier would win hands down.

Not only do they have clever marketing, but unlike Pellegrino they are actually making an effort.  Still, for some like me, ultimately it all comes down to taste and texture.  I prefer Pellegrino, but Perrier is cheaper and easier.  Solution?  Perrier at the house, Pellegrino in small bottles when I go out.  Case closed.


  1. Marcel Tremblay says:

    True snobs only drink Badoit

  2. Erwin says:

    In my view, nothing beats the smoothness of San Pellegrino. Especially when drinking fast and lots (after sports) or mixed with lemon juice, it’s less ‘sharp’ on the throat as compared to fizzier Perrier. I do enjoy the lemon variant of Perrier though (plastic bottel, not glass). Few other sparkling water brands have been successful internationally. Perhaps worth a mention is San Benedetto – not as refined as San Pellegrino, but good for everyday use. Great variety of sparkling water brands in Germany or Austria, where the use of it (on its own or mixing with juices) is a common way of re-hydrating and purchases are usually made in bulk.

  3. Tristan says:

    I think the fact that Pelegrino does not have any advertisements puts it on a higher pedestal in terms of marketing than Perrier, who does. Both companies have huge branding departments and Pelegrino shies away from advertising to give the impression that their product is good enough not to need any marketing.
    As you said, Claire, you like Pelegrino more, even though they don’t advertise. They are ‘too cool’ to advertise. I know this for a fact, because I’ve read an article about it in the New Yorker several years ago.

    Pelegrino does not advertise, because it does not have to.

    Also, I’ve always thought that the bottle of Perrier is kind of silly and goofy looking. The drop-shape seems kind of excessively ornamental to me, while Pelegrino has a much more mature and calm design in terms of its bottle. Austere and serious, but every bit as elegant.

  4. Chris says:

    “It is also worthwhile to note that Perrier comes from France and San Pellegrino from Italy. Therefore, if you are choosing your water according to political affiliation, this is a key detail you may want to consider.”

    Both belong to Netsle so whatever you do the money goes to the biggest multinational in the food industry.

  5. Waterboy says:

    I don’t think we should criticize Perrier for it’s aggressive advertising, lately. In a world where all sort of beverages compete for your thirst, I think it’s a worthy challenge to try and elevate ‘carbonated water’. I challenge you to find an Italian restaurant that will pick Perrier over San Pallegrino. Since there are exponentially more Italian restaurants out there than French, I think Perrier is at a disadvantage. I do prefer the more potent carbonation. In my opinion, clean water and strong carbonation is what makes a beverage ‘crisp and refreshing’. If you feel this way, than you can easily abandon the corrosive soft drinks out there. I will say that Gerolsteiner, when consumed very cold and from a glass bottle, possesses some of the strongest carbonation I have ever tasted.

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