Plant-based waters derived from maple and birch trees can corner a $2bn market by 2025 according to industry expert Julian Mellentin.
Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, says the rise and rise of coconut water – from zero in 2006 to an almost $1bn category in North America by 2013 – is just the first step in a massive emerging trend: healthy, natural low-calorie waters taken directly from plants.
He says that packaging innovations to prolong shelf life will allow brands to launch naturally healthy, naturally sweet maple and birch waters that are sustainably sourced.
Their natural credentials will mean there is no need for a health claim, Mellentin adds, upon the same basis as coconut water. Namely, due to the consumer desire for ‘naturally functional’ drinks with no added sugar.
Canadian brands develop maple water
Maple trees yield water as well as syrup, and the former is naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (46 in total); it has a naturally sweet taste that appeal to consumers, despite a low sugar content (2-3%).
Mellentin says that developments in aseptic packaging and the processing of water on the same day it is collected mean it is now commercially available – Canadian startups Oviva (packaging pictured) Seva and Maple 3 are now developing the market.
“Maple water has the potential to reach the same $700m market size as coconut water over the next five to seven years, provided that maple water brands apply the same lessons…focusing initially on single-serve packs (250-300ml) and upscale distribution and pricing,” Mellentin writes.
Birch sap has healthy prospects
Birch sap is harvested from trees in Japan, Korea, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe each spring, where it is sold as a health drink.
The trees yield a completely clear and slightly sweet sap (1-1.5% sugar) where the main naturally occurring sugar is fructose (xylitol is another sugar) in contrast to maple sap which contains primarily sucrose.
High in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, thiamine and calcium, birch sap has traditional medicine uses as an immunity booster, fighting fatigue, treating arthritis and migraine prevention.
Traditionally, Mellentin points out, birch sap is processed further by concentrating it in a syrup, fermenting it to make kvass or distilling it into vodka.
He cites Finland’s Nordic Koivu brand (pictured top) that has patent pending technology allowing it to collect and bottle birch sap without using heat, additives or preservatives and Denmark’s Sealand Birk.