Thirst for health – Plant-based waters NPD


31 Jul 2017 --- Water is evolving into something more than just H2O, with an increasing number of consumers viewing it as the perfect vehicle to boost their nutrient intake. Beyond fortification options such as vitamin waters, the category is expanding to include plant-based waters that consumers believe may have a range of health benefits.

The trend is global. While the US leads in product introductions, Brazil, Mexico, UK and Canada fall behind, with the latter introducing near half of the US. Compared to the same period five years ago, plant-based water launches have increased by 39 percent. Aloe vera water launches have doubled.

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Maple water and birch tree water are fueling new category expansion. Coconut water, which seemingly started the plant-derived movement still leads. It serves as the base for 284 products released worldwide in the past year. Besides having more familiarity with consumers because it’s been promoted for over a decade, it’s known be rich in electrolytes including potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. Coconut water provides 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. As an bonus to water, it also has three grams of fiber and two grams of protein per 240g serving.

Canadian company Temple Lifestyle calls Thirsty Buddha Coconut Water nature’s ultimate hydrating beverage. Now in an aluminum can, Natural Coconut Water is a product of Thailand. Gluten-free, non-GMO project verified, certified vegan and never from concentrate are the promises made to those who thirst for healthy hydration. Coconut water may be more interesting if carbonated. To that end, the company offers Sparkling Coconut Water. Flavors add even more appeal to sparkling water, thus the two launches flavored with Pineapple and Watermelon.

An Australian company, Natural Raw C, infuses their sparkling coconut water with invigorating flavors such as: Mango and Passionfruit; Elderflower, Mint and Lime; and Blueberry Pomegranate. For those who prefer their sparkling water plain, they offer Straight Up. Another company, Harmless Harvest, uses its name to imply a sustainable product. They boast they are proud to be an ecosystem based business, rooted in natural capitalism and deep ecology. Their coconut water, extracted from organic coconuts grown in Thailand, is extracted and filtered via a proprietary process. 

The addition of probiotics sets Harmless Harvest apart from competitors. Live probiotic cultures, 12.5 billion CFUs, support digestive and immune health. Over five grams of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) is another healthful claim. Natural coconut fat is a ready source of energy. Coconut water provides a good source of fiber. Keeping with the clean label, no thickeners, stabilizers or artificial flavors are used. Besides Original, try Strawberry, Blueberry, or Mango and Acerola flavors.

Goodbelly explains probiotic power meets hydrating electrolytes in their Cultured Probiotic Coconut Water. Organic pear juice from concentrate adds flavor. Gluten-free is an important claim. In product reviews on the website, some consumers have complained about the presence of gluten in many of their products. Team Goodbelly says oat flour and barley malt have been necessary ingredients to support the live and active probiotic cultures in their juice drinks. 

Maprao’s Organic Coconut Water launched in Singapore with a compelling statement on the front of the bottle. “I’m super natural.” Like Harmless Harvest, they point out coconut water sometimes turns pink, perfectly natural proof of how fresh their young green coconuts are. There are seven back of the bottle claims: organic; never heated; no additives; hydrating; fresh; pure; responsible. While Maprao uses Thai Nahm Hom coconuts, Pure Brazilan makes clear on their website that all coconuts are not the same. Their water is cold pressed from small green Anão coconuts and brought to the US. They claim that water from Anão coconuts has an average of 25 percent fewer calories than their Asian propagated peers.

Click to EnlargeTiana Fair Trade Organics, in the UK, also speaks of differences in coconut water. As PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have bought interest in coconut water producers, ONE and Zico, suppliers in Brazil were unable to meet demands. Attention turned to Thailand, Columbia and the Philippines for new sources of coconut water. Aside from coconut variety, quality is impacted by climate, humidity and soil. 

Although coconut waters make up the lion’s share of plant-based waters, Aloe Vera is coming on strong. A recent import to the US, Aldo positions their drink as a health enhancing alternative to caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Made from water, aloe vera puree and aloe vera gel powder, sugar is the third ingredient in the ingredient declaration. A 360ml serving has 18g sugar. Aloe King comes from Korean producer OKF, where it is promoted as organic, natural and nutritional. The package declares it is the number one world sales brand. Premium Pomegranate flavored aloe drink contains 30 percent juice. While this is new to the US, the company offers many other flavors including Gold Kiwi, Lychee, Mango, Goji berry, Acaiberry and a host of others.

Two Hapi Aloe Vera Drinks come to the US. Original flavor or Mango are created with natural flavors, no preservatives and no cholesterol. Mango is sweetened with a touch of honey, though the ingredient statement puts fructose and sugar, third and fourth in prominence. New Lemon flavored Aloe Vera Juice come to France by way of the Organic Bloom brand. The ingredient statement is clear: Pure water, organic aloe vera pulp (13 percent), organic cane sugar, citric acid and organic lemon flavor. Aloe leaves are harvested in Thailand, where the beverage is bottled. 

Birch Water enters the UK from appropriately named Nature on Tap Ltd., the company’s website explains that in Nordic countries, people drink birch sap for replenishment after a long winter.

Collecting birch sap does not harm the trees because the amount of pure sap that’s collected is small. However, each bottle of Tapped contains a 100ml serving size of pure birch sap that’s not from concentrate. Sugars are naturally occurring. The biggest benefit, per serving, is that it supplies 15 percent of the daily requirement for manganese. Those who prefer flavor might try Bilberry and Lingonberry, or Apple and Root Ginger Birch Water. Go Birch is offered by Freedom Brands. This drink is tapped from birch trees in the Baltic region of Europe. The pure water is absorbed by the roots of the birch and filtered slowly through the tree becoming enriched with naturally occurring enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and minerals such as manganese.

Click to EnlargeBelseva calls birch water a genuine, 100 percent natural living water that people in rural Europe have been enjoying for centuries as a natural detox product. “Naturally diuretic, birch water stimulates the cleansing systems of the body, kidney and liver functions, and helps to eliminate the toxins in the body,” they say. 

Maple Water is hitting shelves in the US and Canada. Happy Tree, founded in 2014, works with maple farmers in the US and “never take more from the tree than we need,” the company says. Besides being sustainably sourced, this nutritious tree water is packed with naturally occurring vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants, and just a hint of subtle sweetness making maple water perfect for all day hydration.

Happy Tree innovates with Maple Water Cold Brew Coffee, a product that contains only two ingredients. Making coffee in early season maple water provides naturally occurring sweetness and springtime nutrients. The cold brew avoids bitter oils and acids created by hot brew methods.

The company, Drink Maple, states clearly on their bottle what their product is. “One ingredient straight from the tree.” On their website, they point out the product’s benefits. “Maple trees awaken in the spring and the sap begins to run, carrying with it many healthy nutrients – 46 in all,” they say. 

Mineral rich, it’s a good source of calcium and iron. It’s high in manganese, a powerful antioxidant that could help with thyroid health and blood sugar control. It’s low in sugar, with half the sugar of coconut water.

What’s next for plant-based waters?

  • As consumers seek all day hydration, they are looking for added nutrients as they boost water intake.
  • Besides superfood positioning, plant-based waters fuel the desire for natural products. Tree sap waters tap into the demand for naturally sweetened beverages.
  • Sustainability and ample ingredient supply may come into question if the demand is explosive.
  • Expect exploration of more botanical sources as consumers demonstrate a willingness to try new beverage alternatives to juices and soft drinks.

An expanded version of this article features in the July/August edition of the Innova newsletter.

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