Plant waters are all the rage - at least that’s what trend watchers keep telling us - but can artichoke water emulate the meteoric success of coconut water? Or is Arty Water - an intriguing mix of artichokes, mint and pandanus leaf sweetened with monk fruit and blue agave - too niche to be a hit in the ultra-competitive beverages aisle?
Not surprisingly, its founder and CEO Dr Howard Ketelson - who has a PhD in chemistry - reckons he is onto a winner with Arty Water, although he acknowledges that overcoming the initial "yuck" factor some consumers associate with a vegetable water will be a challenge.
But for every person that takes to Twitter to say, ‘Why on earth would I drink that?’ another person will think, ‘I wonder what that tastes like,’ says Dr. Ketelson, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA from Dallas, Texas.
Anyone can go out and buy an artichoke extract, which will taste terrible
What makes Arty Water special is a patent-pending process of grabbing the good bits from whole artichokes (sourced exclusively from California) that retains their fiber, antioxidants, vitamins (A, E, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, and B9), sodium, potassium, calcium, iron and electrolytes and a host of phytonutrients including quercetin, rutin, gallic acid and cynarin.
“Anyone can go out and buy an artichoke extract, which will taste terrible, and won’t have anything very useful in it nutritionally, but we’ve come up with a proprietary process involving high pressure, heating and cooling and filtration that retains all of the nutrients from the whole artichoke,” claims Dr. Ketelson.
“We knew a lot of people would think of artichokes and think, ‘yuck, I’m not drinking that’, and so we wanted to come up with something that would blow people’s minds, that they would just say, ‘Wow’ when they tasted it. We finally hit it on the head once we added mint.”
It also works well hot or cold, he says. “It tastes different depending on the temperature. Some people like it warm in the evening and cold [for hydration during the day].”
We wanted to come up with something that would blow people’s minds
But how confident is he that consumers will be sufficiently intrigued to try something so different?
The key, says Dr. Ketelson, will be attracting early adopters.
“We had a soft launch at Expo West where we were just blown away by the great feedback, but we’re not immediately approaching retailers the size of Kroger. We’re starting at the grass roots level and going to events in New York and Los Angeles where we can attract fitness people and celebrities as early adopters.”
And so far, the strategy is paying off, he says, with distribution deals struck in New Jersey and New York and a recent deal with Amazon, which has been a big success, he claims.
Does it add value, does it taste good and does it have a good brand?”
Crucially, he says, Arty Water is genuinely new.
“How many different types of coconut water can you have? This is disruptive technology. Anyone can come out with a new product if they have enough money, but you have to ask does it add value, does it taste good and does it have a good brand?”
From a nutritional perspective, meanwhile, he adds, artichokes have been linked to myriad health benefits spanning everything from digestive health to tackling inflammation.
“You only have to do a quick search on the web and you can see that the claims people make about artichokes are supported by clinical trials. There are hundreds.”
We must have talked to 75 co-packers
Given that Dr. Ketelson and co-founder Kevin Kian (who leads the firm's sales, distribution and marketing offices in Newport Beach, CA) are not using an extract, getting the manufacturing infrastructure in place has been a challenge, he says.
“We must have talked to 75 co-packers, and no one wanted to work with us. If you’re using an extract, it’s easy. But we’ve got a unique process, so we ended up partnering with a company that produces salsas and other products and we’ve built a custom-made manufacturing line for Arty Water.
“When we started, we could make 2,000 bottles a month. Now we could make 12,000 a day.”