As people are becoming increasingly health conscious all across the world, the demand for healthy hydration has been growing rapidly. Global sales of the category currently dominated by coconut water, increased by 21% in 2016 reaching a value of US$2.7 bn. According to Zenith Global, the market is expected to double by 2020.
Even though coconut water accounts for a majority of 86% of the market currently, birch water has seen growing popularity over the last few years. The sector is currently diversifying its offerings even more with additions like maple water and cactus water.
This article will focus on birch water – a relatively established and well-known player in the category that is only getting stronger by the day.
What is birch water? Birch water is birch sap which is tapped from birch trees. Birch trees store vital minerals and vitamins in their roots. Every spring this water filters up through the trunk. Once tapped, it can be enjoyed as a refreshing, healthy drink full of natural nutrients and minerals.
A few organizations are quickly gaining pace in the birch water category, having expanded into the category commonly from a fruit drink business. We’ll be looking at three such promising brands looking to take birch water to the next level.
Chas Smith and his cousin, Nikita Salmon, launched Sap! in 2015 with maple sap soda and seltzer made in Vermont. The Pioneers are now looking to expand to the birch sap and water category rather than maple sap. Smith intended to popularize birch water drinks in the US, and fortunately got an early boost worth $50,000 in a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kick-start the process with the Heffernans and their neighbours. Brian Heffernan, 28, tapped 600 birch trees initially with the help of the grant, and now has 4,200 trees tapped. That compares with 38,800 maple taps.
SAP! has been looking into the birch syrup category but has concluded that birch water doesn’t yield syrup that could potentially compete with maple. However, it has achieved substantial success as a flavor in soda and sparkling water in Sap!'s initial tests at a few local businesses like Healthy Living in South Burlington and Richmond Market & Beverage.
TAPPED is a UK-based birch water startup founded by Paul Lederer that is looking to expand the category. TAPPED has recently joined PepsiCo’s innovation incubator program and working alongside the beverage giants to develop newer flavours for 2018.
The startup has also been working on its marketing scheme and message with PepsiCo, a benefit that was included in the 25,000 euro grant awarded to them as part of the program. The cash has enabled TAPPED to up-weight its marketing activity.
The company currently manufactures birch water drinks in three flavours: Apple root and Ginger, Blueberry and Lingonberry, and the pure organic version. Although they are currently focusing on strengthening their business within the UK, TAPPED does have some global presence such as in countries like Singapore.
Treo, the first all-organic line of birch-water infused fruit beverages, was founded by Bob Golden, who, as a son of one of Snapple's co-founders, had a front-row seat at the groundbreaking brand's development and rapid ascension throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Based in the US, Treo sports a line of birch water drinks that are big on taste and low in sugar and calories. The company was set to introduce three new flavors at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD: Raspberry Lemonade, Kiwi Watermelon and Orange-Apricot, besides their existing Peach Mango, Coconut Pineapple, Strawberry and Blueberry.
The drinks are sold across 5,500 stores including major retailers such as Wegmans, Albertson's Safeway, Stop & Shop, Giant, ShopRite, Acme, Fairway, Jewel Osco, Woodman's, DeCicco's, Best Market, Earthfare and a host of other fine natural and conventional retailers, making Treo one of the biggest brands in the category.
The increasing growth of birch water as a drink is indicative of the world’s shift toward healthier choices. Even though the drink is relatively new to markets like the UK and the US, birch water has been consumed in the Nordics and Baltic as a traditional “rejuvenating springtime tonic” for centuries. Plant-derived waters are evidently the future of the beverage industry!