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Beverage battle: Which plant drink will be the next coconut water?

(Photo: Caliwater)
(Photo: Caliwater)

Coconut water is still the post-workout (and post-hangover) beverage of choice for the wellness cognoscenti. But now, healthy entrepreneurs are tapping all kinds of other plants to produce drinks that mimic the health benefits of coconut water, in attempts to get a piece of the electrolyte-packed, hydration pie.

“The success of coconut water—which is now almost a $1 billion beverage category since its emergence on the scene in 2006—has everyone on the hunt for the next healthy billion dollar beverage concept,” says Carlotta Mast, senior director of content and insights for New Hope Natural Media, the company that products Natural Products Expo East and West. “Emerging are numerous product concepts that are based on healthy, natural, low-calorie waters taken directly from plants.”

And these “plant waters” are positioned to follow in coconut water’s footsteps, since they also come directly from natural sources and are minimally processed (as opposed to artificial electrolyte drinks like Gatorade).

The most popular among them is maple water, made from the unprocessed sap of maple trees, which is now being bottled by multiple brands. Happy Tree is sold at select Whole Foods locations, DrinkMaple is available all over New England and at healthy New York hotspot Hu Kitchen, and Vertical Water is spreading out across the country, too.

Other harder-to-find plant water varieties include watermelon water (WTRMLN WTR), artichoke water (Arty Water), birch water (Byarozavik Birch Tree Water), almond water (Victoria’s Kitchen), olive water (Olive Water), and cactus water (Caliwater and True Nopal).

A growing number of these made waves this year at Expo East and West, Mast says, and buyers from Whole Foods told us that “melon waters, like watermelon water, are definitely a trend for 2015.”

Which means don’t be shocked if you spy Honeydew Water from Coca-Cola or Pepsi next to quinoa salads at 7-Eleven sometime next year. —Jamie McKillop