Maple Water Looks to Topple Coconut Water as Trendy Health Drink
Article written by Jenni Tibbs
It’s one of Canada’s newest food innovations, using a product that is distinctly Canadian, maple syrup (or rather a variation of maple syrup), and it’s starting to make waves for its potential health benefits and ability to upscale the reigning and defending champion of health drinks, coconut water.
The beverage itself is not new; as that article explains, and another one from the New York Times showcases, Canadians and South Koreans, among others, have been drinking maple sap for years. The commercial problem with maple sap was its short shelf life. So the Quebec federation spent seven years in R&D labs perfecting a sterilization technique that would allow the maple water to achieve a shelf life of 18 months, allowing it to be stored and sold year-round, rather than only during a short spring window, when the sap is collected.
The major benefit for Canadian maple water producers is that it will likely prove far more lucrative than maple syrup production as well, with a much greater profit margin. It takes about 40 parts of sap to produce 1 unit of maple syrup according to Canadian maple syrup producer James Bay Wild Fruit. That liter of syrup can sell for as little as $15/liter, or about 37.5 cents per liter of sap. Maple water on the other hand is currently being sold for $5-$6 per liter.
Maple water is now sold in Canada under a number of different labels, including Oviva, Seva, KiKi, and Maple3. As Oviva explains on their product page, the water has a slightly sweet and velvety taste, though it otherwise tastes essentially like normal water. More importantly, it contains 46 active compounds including minerals, amino acids, and polyphenols, and contains just 25 calories and 3 grams of sugar per 250ml of the drink.
Sugar content gives maple water distinct advantage over coconut water
The fact maple water contains far less sugar and carbs than coconut water is a major boon for the drink, given the expanding knowledge we have on just how detrimental to our health those are. As Kwikmed reports, we were warned for years to avoid saturated fats, and it’s only now gaining traction that those fats may actually be beneficial, with carbs being the real danger. As Examiner shows, the Swedish government has even taken the unprecedented step of encouraging their citizens to eat a high-fat, low-carb diet.
The sugar content (or lack thereof) may come as a pleasant surprise to those who conjure images of rich maple syrup in their heads when thinking of maple water. Maple syrup is fully concentrated maple sap which is boiled to evaporate all of its water content until it has the consistency we’re familiar with. Maple water on the other hand is the same sap, only not concentrated, and further sterilized. The result is a liquid that looks almost identical to water, save for a slightly yellow tinge.
Despite less sugar, a Cornell study found that taste testers preferred the taste of maple water over that of coconut water.
U.S jumping on the maple water bandwagon
Despite being iconically Canadian, the push is on south of the border to bring maple water to thirsty Americans. The first American-made offering is expected to be released sometime in April. That product, Vertical Water (owing to the fact that maple sap travels vertically up through the tree from the ground, before being discharged through a tapping hole), is being produced by Feronia Forests in collaboration with Cornell University.
Faced with the same challenges the Canadian producers were, Feronia was able to perfect a process with the help of Cornell’s Food Venture Center that would allow their maple water to last for one year; not quite up to the Canadian standards, but more than enough to make it a viable commercial product.
The question now is, will there be a big enough market for both maple and coconut waters, and if not, which will consumers choose? For Canadian and U.S producers, the hope is it will be their homegrown maple waters, which could prove a boon not only to the local economies, but to the preservation of maple trees in those regions as well.