Video: Expo West 2014 Profile — Caliwater

If you’re not crawling the desert, tongue as gravelly as the encompassing sand, in search of a drink for survival, why else would you drink water from a cactus? Could there be more to the stuff than what’s depicted in cartoons?

If you ask Matt McKee, the founder of Caliwater, a water made with prickly pear cactus extract and juice, you’ll learn about the water’s naturally occurring electrolytes, minerals and betalains (anti-inflammatory antioxidants).

“It’s like a long-held, best-kept secret,” McKee said.

In the video above, which was filmed at the Caliwater booth at Natural Products Expo West 2014, McKee goes into greater detail about the product’s chief benefits, such as skin revitalization and bodily detoxification. Among other effects, he said that the betalains can reduce under-eye puffiness and add a glow to skin. And while the company doesn’t market Caliwater as a hangover cure, prickly pear joins milk thistle as one of the more common ingredients found in beverages that aim to prevent or cure hangovers.

Alongside these potential benefits, Caliwater also boasts a number of Expo West-friendly traits, such as no fat, no added sugar or preservatives, a low caloric profile (32 per serving) and sugar count (7 grams per serving), vegan-friendly, certified O.U. Kosher and gluten-free.

Yet despite those natural channel bona fides, McKee understands that mainstream consumers could be thrown off by this kind of product — an atypical presence in the water aisle. To counter consumer hesitance, he tells people that Caliwater tastes like an earthy Vitaminwater with a mellow berry taste.

Many consumers don’t know how to anticipate cactus water, however, once they know it’s “superfruit” based, they’re ready to give it a shot, McKee said. And after tasting it, people are typically surprised that they like it, he said.

“I’ll take it,” McKee said. “That’s fine.”

Expo West served as the public introduction for Caliwater, which launched in January. And as is the case with so many startups, the company needs to find a way to lure repeat customers from the more rigid mainstream channel, where shoppers are typically less interested in what’s exotic and more interested in what’s familiar. Even with this challenge, McKee said that mainstream consumers are a bit more familiar with offbeat waters thanks to coconut water.

“Coconut water has really paved the way in that regard,” McKee said. “Meaning, we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing, which is basically an earth-enhanced water powered by the prickly pear cactus, without coconut water paving the way.”