Plant waters take center stage at Expo West, but can they emulate coconut water's meteoric success?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coconut water Fruit

FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson talked to three players in the emerging 'plant waters' category at the 2015 Natural Products Expo West trade show to find out whether they have what it takes to claw back some shelf space from coconut water in the chiller.

First we spoke to Dr Howard Ketelson, founder and CEO of Arty Water, a blend of artichokes, mint and pandanus leaf sweetened with monk fruit and blue agave, which launched in early 2014.

While some plant waters have a subtle flavor, Arty Water​ - made using a patent-pending process from whole artichokes, not extracts – has a more distinctive, intriguing flavor that often delights consumers that have initial reservations about what artichoke water might taste like, said Dr Ketelson.

Arty Water: ‘There are other plants and trees and fruits out there aside from coconuts’

A new variant featuring ginger also gained a lot of positive feedback at the show, he added.

“Everyone and his mother is trying to get coconut water, but there are other plants and trees and fruits out there that have some amazing health benefits as well.”

While the consumer response has been great, they are supply chain challenges when you are creating a new category, he said: “It’s a challenge efficiently scaling the product when you don’t have a lot of volume at the front end, but it’s been a great learning experience.”

arty water expo west

DRINKmaple: ‘Most people expect it to be sugary and they are pleasantly surprised when they taste it’

Next we spoke to DRINKmaple​ ​co-founder Kate Weiler, who discovered maple water on a trip to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec for a triathlon in August 2013, fell in love with it, and shipped her first products in spring 2014.

However, she still spends a lot of time educating people about what maple water isn’t, which mainly involves explaining that it's not ‘watered-down’ maple syrup.

It's also lower in sugar and calories than coconut water, and made locally from trees grown in North America, she noted. 

“Most people expect it to be sugary and sweet and are pleasantly surprised with the natural refreshing hydrating factor ​[when they taste it].”

But she added: “Maple sap runs once a year, so being able to scale that supply chain in an efficient way is really challenging for us… ”

drink maple expo west

Caliwater: ‘We’re not shipping anything across the ocean’

Finally we spoke to Matt McKee, who teamed up with film and television industry colleague and long-time friend Melissa Reed to found Caliwater ​ - a blend of prickly pear cactus puree and extract, filtered water, organic cane sugar and organic lemon juice - which also launched in 2014.

“What’s cool is that people in southern California just get it; they are open to it…"​ said McKee.

"And retailers are looking for something innovative and new. Instead of adding a fifth or a sixth coconut water, they are giving us an opportunity to bring something else to the table.

“There’s also a local aspect to what each of us is doing in that we’re harvesting cacti from southern California, and ​[Boston-based] DRINKMaple is working with trees in New England, for example.

"We’re not shipping anything across the ocean, and I think people are really responding to that.”

New caliwater packaging

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