'People in the UK think ‘syrup’ when they hear ‘maple’': America’s DRINKmaple on European expansion

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

DRINKmaple says maple water ticks all the boxes in consumer trends
DRINKmaple says maple water ticks all the boxes in consumer trends

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US maple water brand DRINKmaple says UK consumers show the same thirst for sustainable, organic, single-ingredient products as those in the US; but there is work to be done in educating UK consumers on the attributes of maple water. 

With global maple water sales predicted to hit $994m by 2020, DRINKmaple believes it can replicate its US success in the UK and Europe. The Boston-based brand has three SKUs in the UK and is working on expanding into other European countries.

It is launching an educational marketing campaign in the UK to explain exactly what maple water is, and move the category away from the sugary connotations with maple syrup.

The majority of people in the UK think ‘syrup’ when they hear ‘maple’ and our objective is to show them that maple water is something altogether very different,”​ says the brand.  

‘One people try it they’re sold’

DRINKmaple was founded by two Ironman triathletes, Kate Weiler and Jeff Rose. While taking part in a triathlon in Québec in 2013, they discovered maple water, but found they couldn’t find it back in the US.

‘Amazing water doesn’t grow on trees; it grows in them!’

DRINKmaple is pure maple sap tapped directly from maple trees.

“Maple water is low calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free and non-GMO, with 46 naturally occurring polyphenols, antioxidants, prebiotics, minerals and electrolytes.

"It has half the sugar of coconut water and more manganese than a cup of kale,”​ explains DRINKmaple.

In the US it is available from Costco, Ahold, Wegmans, H-E-B and Whole Foods Market, and has recently secured listings at 1,030 Kroger stores: a deal that will extend its distribution to around 3,500 stores.  

The brand launched three SKUs into the UK early last year, and has begun working with several distributors in Europe: Germany, Spain and France are markets set to follow later this year.

Alicia Cooper, UK & Europe brand manager, told BeverageDaily the launch of an educational marketing campaign in the UK will be the key to replicating US success.

The campaign hopes to encourage people to try the beverage (“once people try the drink they’re sold”​) and explain the attributes of maple water.

“The difficulty in entering the market and introducing a new category into the UK has been education and trying to break down connotations people have with maple,” ​said Cooper.

“As we have only really known maple for its syrup, it is not an easy task trying to break down these misconceptions so people view maple water as something different and not a sugar laden drink.”

In the UK DRINKmaple is available from CSN, Epicurium, Marigold, Diverse Fine Foods, JD’s Wholesale and Infinity Foods. The three size formats have remained the same, but in April this year it changed production to allow for a two-year shelf life.

In July it will introduce its first NPD, DRINKmelon, ‘a plant-based, single ingredient functional beverage’​ made from watermelons.

“Our target market is both males and females who have an interest in healthy and organic produce, conscientious and discerning shoppers that identify with sustainable, free-from and delicious products,” ​said Cooper.

“Those that work in the cities and are open-minded about new products and innovation. Anyone that enjoys coconut water and alternative healthy drinks is very much our target market.”

Crossing the Atlantic: similarities and differences

Both the US and UK are seeing consumers making more conscientious decisions when it comes to what they drink, said Cooper. She sees beverages like coconut water, aloe and tree waters growing rapidly.

“The similarities are very much that consumer trends are veering away from the sugary smoothies, juices and fizzy drinks towards drinks with provenance and real nutritional benefit,” ​she said. 

But when it comes specifically to maple water, the UK does not have the same awareness as the US, she said.

“Maple water in the US has grown more quickly than in the UK due to more maple water brands available to help expand the market and awareness of it. It is a difficult and expensive process to get maple water to the UK, as it can only be produced in deciduous forests in North America.

DRINKmaple bottle

“Additionally, maple is a huge market already in the US, far beyond that in the UK and as such, there is more education available in the States to inform customers that this isn't a sugary drink and does not have a similar nutritional profile to that of maple syrup.” 

But ultimately, Cooper believes maple water has the same potential in the UK as the US.

“There is the same hunger from consumers to have healthy, sustainable, organic, single-ingredient and free-from products [in the UK] just like there is in the US.

“This is already apparent from our growth and stockists within our first year, that not only are consumers but also retailers incredibly interested and aware of the shift in drink trends and how tree water ticks all of the boxes. 

“It is a case of education and with this continuing, there is undoubtedly a huge and long serving category that will emerge.”

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