New extraction and packaging technology that prolongs shelf life has made these subtly sweet plant water experiences possible. According to Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, “With the right marketing and distribution strategies, these new waters will be a $2 billion (€1.5 billion) business by 2025.”
Like coconut water, maple and birch waters are appealing options for health-conscious consumers since they are naturally healthy with a positive nutritional profile; naturally sweet with no added sugar; and because they can be sustainably sourced with little constraint on volumes.
With natural benefits like these, plant waters have no need for health claims. Sales of coconut waterhave been surging for five years — with no products carrying any heath claims — driven by consumers’ desire for drinks that are “naturally functional” and have no added sugar. In fact “naturally functional” is the biggest driver in the industry, according to the New Nutrition Business report “12 Key Trends in Food Nutrition and Health 2014,” and is the force behind the success of coconut water and almond milk.
Maple trees are known as the source of maple syrup, but they also yield a beverage much more in line with the preferences of health-conscious consumers — maple water.
Maple water, like coconut water, is naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and 46 antioxidants that make it a potent healthful beverage. Maple water also has an inherently sweet taste — and overall a taste profile that gets a higher score than coconut water in consumer research, although the sugar content (primarily sucrose) is only 2%-3%.
Maple water, or sap, is in fact the raw ingredient of maple syrup, traditionally processed into syrup because the water spoils after just one day. But developments in aseptic packaging via Tetrapak, combined with processing maple water the same day it is collected, mean water can now be made commercially available.
A trio of Canadian entrepreneurial brands — Oviva, Seva and Maple 3 — are developing the market.
Maple water has the potential to reach the same market size as coconut water over the next five to seven years, provided that maple water brands apply the same lessons as did coconut water, focusing initially on single-serve packs (250-330ml) and upscale distribution and pricing.
Birch sap is produced by birch trees every year in early spring and is harvested as a health drink in countries including Japan, Korea, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
The sap is completely clear and slightly sweet, containing just 1%-1.5% sugars. The main naturally occurring sugar in birch sap is fructose. Birch sap also contains xylitol.
As with maple water, advances in packaging and processing technology now allow companies to bring birch water to market in its all-natural, no added sugar form.
Brands such as Finland’s Nordic Koivu, whose patent-pending technology has allowed them to collect and bottle the birch sap without adding any preservatives, and Denmark’s Sealand Birk are rapidly developing the consumer market.
Birch sap is high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, manganese, thiamin, and calcium. Uses in traditional and folk medicine include:
• boosting immunity
• fighting fatigue
• treating arthritis and joint pain
• supporting energy or sports
• migraine prevention