Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

Water from plants: naturally healthy, naturally sweet and a future $2 billion business

Sealand BirkThe success of coconut water – which has surged from zero in 2006 to an almost $1 billion (€750 million) business in North America and Europe by 2013 – is just the first step in a massive emerging trend: healthy, natural, naturally sweet and sustainable waters taken directly from plants.

Extraction and packaging innovations that prolong shelf life mean that consumer can now experience the subtly sweet taste of plant water taken directly from maple trees and birch trees. 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 offer benefits that make them perfect options for health-conscious consumers:

1. Naturally healthy with a positive nutritional profile

2. Naturally sweet – no sugar need be added

3. 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 water have been surging for five years – with no health claims. The driver is consumers’ desire for drinks that are “naturally functional” and have no added sugar. In fact “naturally functional” is the biggest driver in the industry (see ).

1. Maple water

Maple trees are known as the source of maple syrup (a major business in Canada). But they also yield maple water which, like coconut water, is naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and 46 antioxidants. It 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 is only 2%-3%.

A trio of Canadian entrepreneurial brands – Oviva, Seva and Maple 3 – are developing the market. But maple waters ability to rival coconut water is dependent on these brands applying the same lessons that coconut water learned – focusing initially on single-serve packs and upscale distribution and pricing.

2. Birch sap

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.

Birch sap is high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, manganese and thiamin.

The sap is completely clear and slightly sweet, containing 1%-1.5% sugars. The sugars are fructose and xylitol.

Brands such as Finland’s Nordic Koivu and Denmark’s Sealand Birk are developing the consumer market.

It’s rare in our industry that the emergence future market can be seen so clearly. The question will be whether existing companies will have the courage to act as pioneers, or whether – as happened with coconut water and most other success stories of the last 20 years – its entrepreneurial start-ups which will reap the benefit.


Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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