Made in Vermont

Drink Local: Maple Beverages Hit Vermont Shelves

Maple syrup has been—and always will be—part and parcel of the Vermont brand… along with cheddar cheese, Heady Topper and Ben & Jerry’s, of course. I didn’t realize just how versatile maple was beyond pancakes and creemees until my neighbor started tapping my very own sugarbush and giving me more woodsy syrup than I knew what to do with. (Read my 12 tasty ways to use Vermont maple syrup here.)

In 2015, Vermont produced 40.7 percent of all maple syrup produced in the US, totaling more than 1.39M gallons of syrup. That’s a shit ton of pancakes and revenue for the Green Mountain State. It’s no surprise that more and more businesses are trying to figure out ways to make—and monetize—diverse maple products.

Three Vermont companies—Sap! Maple, DRINKmaple and TreTap—are producing maple drinks that are currently flooding the shelves of Vermont stores. They’re utilizing both sap and syrup to make their refreshing maple beverages that have health benefits too. Learn more about why I’m gushing over these made-in-Vermont drinks, and read interviews with their founders about the production process, how they got started in the maple industry and what’s next as they seek to expand.

Sap! Maple: Sap makes Maple Sap! Seltzer and Sap! Seltzer; the subtly sweet seltzer is my go-to sap drink in Vermont right now. Their mission? “One ingredient: making the world a healthier place, without sacrificing taste.” The company, comprised of three Vermonters currently, makes their beverages in Middlebury, Vermont, with Vermont Hard Cider Company. All of the sap is sourced from Vermont, mostly in Franklin County. Their products range from $1.99-$2.50 depending on the location and type of store and can be found in over 80 stores in Vermont and across New England. Find a store near you here.

SAP! Maple Water - Maple Drink

Interview with Chas Smith, Owner, Sap! Maple

Why sap? Why did you get the idea to make a sap-based product Vermont? Our family comes from the maple industry. My cousin, Nikita Salmon (who is one of the three co-founders of the business), has been sugaring his whole life and it remains his parent’s primary source of income. We have been consuming maple sap drinks in our family for years, and it is a common thing in our Vermont culture to drink sap right from the tree during the sugaring season. So the idea of making maple sap drinks is not new; in fact it is really old. Native Americans, the Abenaki in particular, have been consuming sap for hundreds of years. We wanted to bring the experience of drinking maple sap to the masses. It’s a special experience that for us means family, friendship, health, well-being and a deeper connection to nature and our surrounding environment. We also have a very specific way that we make sap drinks. We take the sap from the tree and remove a little bit of the water from it (think boiling off some water) to sweeten the products to have a full taste profile and we also carbonate the products. There are other “maple waters” on the market but we really have taken a different approach with our products.

Why Vermont? What about the Vermont brand helps enhance your brand, product and its marketing? In short, we are Vermonters, we have deep connections to this state (in my case, I’m an eighth generation Vermonter) and the working landscape. Vermont has a fantastic brand that speaks honesty, authenticity, pure, natural and high quality. These are all qualities of our products. We are extremely proud of Vermont maple, and we believe our products are a great representation of Vermont. We certainly market that these products are from Vermont, and our authentic story helps our customers connect to the products in a deeper way.

What separates your product from others on the market and in Vermont specifically? We have two sap products, a Maple Sap! Seltzer and a Maple Sap! Soda. We are the only company offering pure carbonated maple sap products at two different sap sweetness levels. We do not remix our products at all or add maple syrup. All of our products are made from maple sap straight from the tree with nothing at all added besides carbonation. Our “soda” is completely unique on the market as the maple has been “concentrated” (the water removed to concentration the maple nutrients and flavor profile) to a level not seen on the market at all.

What’s the process for making your sap drink and what makes it unique? We aim to can the sap from tree to bottle within 24 hours. While we cannot disclose everything that we do, we have worked extremely hard to find a way to not add preservatives to our products while retaining a very long shelf-life and very high quality. It is a true maple sap experience drinking our products.

What’s next for Sap? We are excited to launch a new, non-maple product in July. It is sap from another tree so stay tuned!

DRINK Maple - Maple DrinkDRINKmaple
DRINKmaple makes their maple water in St. Albans and is run by two Vermonters. All of the sap is harvested within 25 miles of St. Albans in the state of Vermont. Their mission? “One ingredient, straight from the tree.” According to co-founder Kate Weiler, they’ve sold millions of bottles this year, adding to the growing popularity of maple products on the market in Vermont.

Interview with Kate Weiler, Co-Founder, DRINKmaple

Why sap? Why did you get the idea to distribute maple water? My (now) business partner, Jeff and I were doing an Ironman in Canada and came across a very small manufacturer’s maple water. We didn’t know that maple sap was so nutritious and refreshing and could be consumed as a natural hydration. We loved the idea that coconut water was a single ingredient, natural hydration but couldn’t believe that as a country, we were shipping coconuts from across the world when we had a resource that was in our backyards that wasn’t being utilized for natural hydration. 

Why Vermont? What about the Vermont brand helps enhance your own brand, product and its marketing? Everyone loves Vermont! Logistically, Vermont has a plethora of maple trees needed for a scalable supply chain to produce our maple water. In addition, the pure and beautiful landscape of Vermont reflects our simple, pure brand. 

What separates your product from others on the market and in Vermont specifically? DRINKmaple is the sap that comes straight from the tree. We don’t use permeate or add anything to it. It is one single ingredient. It is a certified organic natural hydration. 

What’s the process for making your sap drink, and what makes it unique? We collect the sap from the maple trees. Instead of boiling it down to make syrup, we bring it to our facility in St. Albans and filter it, test it for clarity and send it to be bottled. The result is a shelf stable hydration drink with nothing added and no preservatives.

What’s next for DRINKmaple? We are launching DRINKmelon Organic Watermelon Water next month. We are excited to launch another single ingredient, functional, delicious, natural hydration beverage. 

TreTap: TreTap’s syrup operation employees 30 Vermonters and half of that number works directly on TreTap. Their mission is to, “Hydrate healthy with tretap, a pristine sparkling water for those who care about what goes into their body.” Vermont Hard Cider Company in Middlebury is their partner for filling their cans, and they’re growing steadily—up over 300% from 2015. Maple and Blueberry are their most popular varieties, although Cucumber is becoming a summer seasonal favorite. The suggested retail for a single-serve can is $1.69-$1.99 and in fourpacks $5.99. Currently, TreTap is sold in over 150 Vermont stores and over 200 outside of the Green Mountain State.

TreTap - Maple Drink

Interview with Aaron Harris, Chief Syrup Taster – TreTap

Why sap? Why did you get the idea to make a maple sap-based beverage in Vermont? We are two of the largest and oldest syrup families in Vermont. The Branon family is a seventh generation Vermont maple syrup family. We have been discarding our water that is the bi-product of our organic syrup. We are not sap, but the water that is extracted from sap. The term “maple water” or “sap water” is a bit confusing. We convert all of our sap into syrup; we just happen to make delicious and healthy beverages with the pristine water we have discarded for years.

Why Vermont? What about the Vermont brand and landscape helps enhance your brand, product and its marketing? We are all Vermonters. We have chosen to raise our families in Vermont. And while we love the values and nature of Vermont we wanted address the issues going on with unhealthy nutrition and unhealthy beverages. The fact that we are also Vermont maple syrup families made us want to focus on issues affecting all families: knowing the source of your drinks and gaining access to more healthy beverages.

What separates your product from others on the market and in Vermont specifically? Our water uses the most pristine water in the world, from our Maple trees, and we have designed healthy recipes that are low calorie (less than 5 grams of sugar) and low calorie (less than 10 calories per can). We are also NON-GMO, organic, Kosher and really tasty. We are now in four flavors but looking at more flavors and beverage sectors to get into. We also have the luxury of owning our own source. We have 250,000 taps and we typically discard over six million gallons of water a season!

What’s the process for making your sap drink and what makes it unique? Once we collect the sap in our sugar house we immediately put it through a membrane that filters out all the water from our sap. It is that water that accounts for 98% of our drinks. We did countless hours of sampling, consumer testing at Vermont restaurants, ski resorts and with family and friends. We worked with UVM Food and Science Department to come up with great recipes that are tasty and healthy.

What’s next for TreTap? We will continue exposing consumers to the brand, sampling and tasting and converting them into repeat buyers. We are also currently building on our loyal Vermont followers as we look into growing throughout New England.

What’s your favorite maple beverage or maple product? Share in the comments below.