Launched in January 2020 in Toronto, Sapsucker carbonated maple water products can be found in 500 Canadian outlets including Sobeys and Whole Foods, as well as a number of smaller regional players. The brand will be rolling out with Canadian national retailer, Loblaws, in the fall, said Klein.
The tree water category has seen a number of brand entries over the years – Drink Simple Maple Water, Asarasi, TreTap, Sap! – but none have managed to command a huge share of the better-for-you beverage market and consumer interest, argues Klein.
Klein believes tree water sourced from the sap of maple trees can be as big of a consumer trend phenomenon as coconut water – which accounts for 75% to 80% of the plant water category by volume and dollar sales, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.
“We strongly feel we’ve cracked the code to building the category with our branding and taste profile,” Klein told FoodNavigator-USA.
Sustainable sourcing and natural health benefits
Sapsucker's tree water sourced from maple trees is backed by sustainable and ethical sourcing credentials, according to the company.
Sapsucker sources its sap water from the same farmers who produce maple syrup outside of Toronto, providing an additional revenue stream for farmers.
“Instead of boiling it down to make maple syrup, they sell it to us,” said Klein.
The farmers harvest the tree water in the spring in a process which does not harm the maple trees and allows them to continue to produce throughout their natural lives (up to 200 years) and without disrupting underground resources such as aquifers, according to the company.
Sapsucker adds carbonation, citric acid (for product stability), and fruit extracts to the maple water to create its lemon and lime flavors.
“We keep our flavors very subtle, and it doesn’t have a maple taste. It’s a very slight sweetness,” said Klein.
At 35 calories and 7 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can, Sapsucker maple water contains 46 naturally-occurring nutrients including minerals and antioxidants which give it natural hydrating properties with no added sugar, claims the company.
Retail strategy: ‘You want to be in the danger of being consumed’
Aware that competition for beverages (especially singe-serve products in the chilled vault) at retail is steep, Sapsucker has found success getting creative with its merchandising and retail strategy, said Klein.
“You can expect to find us in the beverage aisle, but we like to show up in unexpected places for that impulse purchase,” he said.
With its brightly hued green and yellow packaging, Sapsucker has placed its lemon and lime SKUs in store produce sections right above lemons and limes. The brand has also partnered with a number of businesses in the alternative retail channel such as boutique hotels and Barry’s Bootcamp studios.
The brand has also picked up distribution at indie coffee shops and fast casual restaurants in major metro areas, said Klein.
"A lot of the better for you beverages in the category don’t necessarily pair well with food," said Klein who believes Sapsucker's subtle flavor profile provides a light and refreshing complement to any meal.
US market launch
In the US, Sapsucker hopes to create a buzz with its bold, clean packaging and drive trial through meal kit partnerships and other brand collaborations.
“The market is 10 times bigger in the US, and therefore I think 10 times more competitive,” said Klein.
“You can’t just show up on shelf. We intend to grow in a similar manner, which is hyper localized. It’s a neighborhood approach and it’s very replicable,” said Klein.
Sapsucker will first focus its launch on two strategic markets (one being Chicago) and grow from there. The brand also has two more flavor launches planned for this year to round out its product lineup, added Klein.
“We're working with brokers and distributors that represent the likes of Flow Water and Love Good Fats (two Canadian brands), but this year we're focused on winning in Canada.”