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Is this product the next coconut water?

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind

Coconut Water has jumped from relative obscurity to a health-drink powerhouse in the last seven years, going from close to $0 in sales in 2004 to over $400 million in 2013.

While soda and non-fresh juice sales are slipping, sales of all waters (including fitness and plant-based waters) have grown 7% since 2013 and produce section beverages have jumped 13% since 2013, according to Nielsen.

Now, other plant-based drinks, like maple water, want a piece of the pie. Made from the sap of maple trees (which is often then boiled down to become maple syrup), maple water has long been known as a health-concoction in South Korea. Companies like Vertical (in partnership with Cornell University), DRINKmaple, Oviva and HappyTree are all available nationally and are fighting to establish themselves as THE maple water company.

Ari Tolwin, the co-founder of HappyTree and a former McKinsey consultant, was visiting his brother, a farmer in upstate New York, when he first tried maple water straight from the tree. After searching online and finding that there wasn’t much about the product he quit his job to start selling the stuff.

Tolwin claims maple water boosts the metabolism, provides a natural alternative to caffeine, promotes healthy bones and more.

Tolwin is marketing his maple water to consumers who are shelling out big bucks for juice cleanses. The master cleanse, he points out, calls for water, maple syrup, cayenne and lemon.

The best part of maple water is that the infrastructure already exists, says Tolwin.

“It takes 40 or 50 parts of the water to make one part of syrup,” he says, “so farmers that are making maple syrup are already collecting tons of the product."

HappyTree launched in March 2014 and is already in Whole Foods stores nationwide and Tolwin expects more. “I imagine that Coke and Pepsi are already beginning to look at this market and are starting to follow some of the players that are in there,” he says.