Expo East Roundup: Plant-Based Waters


Following the success of coconut water, beverage producers are further exploring the potential of natural hydration products in various ways with a new wave of plant-based waters.

This year’s Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore featured no shortage of brands seeking to showcase their innovations in the category.

Vermont-based DRINKmaple’s approach is to keep things simple by focusing on a single ingredient. Their flagship SKU, launched in 2014, is pure, USDA certified organic, non-GMO maple water sourced from trees in Vermont. Their newest product line follows the same approach: DRINKmelon, launched in August, is 100 percent cold-pressed organic watermelon water. As DRINKmelon’s distribution expands this Fall beyond the Northeast, where it is currently available at Ahold Stores, the brand believes its 18 month-long shelf life, achieved through UHT pasteurization, will give it an advantage over the competition.

Another Vermont-based brand, The Maple Guild, took the opposite path in debuting their new line of maple waters. Available in seven flavors, including Citrus (with turmeric), Blueberry and Peach, each is enhanced with antioxidants, electrolytes, B vitamins and green tea extract. Each contains 45 calories per 8 oz. serving and 11 grams of natural sugar.

“We wanted to give some added substance to the waters by adding a functional component,” said John Campbell, the company’s head of sales and marketing. The Maple Guild’s beverage play extended further with a new nine-SKU line of maple syrup-sweetened iced teas. Campbell also mentioned the possibility of marketing maple syrup vinegar as a drinking vinegar, reflecting the brand’s holistic approach towards using their signature ingredient.

Makers of birch waters are also trying to take a larger share of the plant-based hydration category. Säpp Birch Water, available in New York and set to launch in southern California within weeks, has three SKUs: pure birch water, plus two infusions made with Rosehip or Nettle. Each are organic, vegan, and non-GMO. The brand’s message combines elements of natural hydration and functionality, noting its use as a “traditional source of detox in Scandinavia” and emphasizing how one bottle contains five times the amount of maganese found in a cup of kale.

Treo Brands, a venture led by Bob Golden, son of Snapple co-founder Hyman Golden, approached birch water differently for their inaugural product, Treo Organic Birch Water Infusion. A blend of stevia and erythritol is used as a natural sweetener for the four flavors — Strawberry, Peach Mango, Blueberry and Coconut Pineapple. All are certified organic, non-GMO, OU and gluten free. Treo President Brian O’Byrne told BevNET that he views taste as the SKU’s primary attraction over the nutritional benefits. “We wanted to have a product with birch water as the main ingredient, but have it taste great. Using fruit juice gives it a full flavor without any added sugar,” said O’Byrne.

Verday Chlorophyll Water, part of the Chlorophyll Brands portfolio, has been growing since its debut at Natural Products Expo West in March. Calling itself “the world’s first refreshing zero-calorie Green Drink,” Verday launched in three SKUs — Watermelon, Cucumber and Lemongrass & Ginger — followed by the addition of Coconut in July. Verday is available at natural and specialty stores in the New York area.

While innovation grows in other areas, there are new coconut water brands as well. Obrigado, for example, is taking a tech-based approach to their production process: each of their 450,000 coconut trees in Brazil are individually barcoded, which provides detailed information on yield and volume that Aurantica USA president Diane Roy said ensures consistency in the final product. Their proprietary extraction process removes the water from young coconuts without exposure to air or light. The 100 percent pure coconut water is currently Obrigado’s only SKU available on the U.S. market.

The emergence of new brands and types of plant-based waters speaks to the category’s potential for further growth. The potential for the combination of functionality and organic, better-for-you refreshment to appeal to consumers has given beverage producers a strong incentive to continue exploring this still nascent classification.