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How artichoke water wants to steal coconut water's throne

Artichoke water is one coconut water alternative companies are selling.
Artichoke water is one coconut water alternative companies are selling.

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It's good to be coconut water. The slightly salty, slightly sweet drink, wasn't even a blip on the beverage industry's radar 10 years ago, but now, it's worth $400 million, annually. But since the market is dominated by the likes of Zico and Vita Coco, entrepreneurs are trying to find a new way into the mouths of the health conscious, drink buying crowds. And they're doing that with things like cactus water, artichoke water and maple water.

Courtney Rubin details the battle to capture the health conscious, coconut water buying crowd for Fast Company:

There are also several entrepreneurs vying to become the leader in maple water, which is water that flows through maple trees in the spring, delivering vitamins and minerals from the ground up. Boil down 40 gallons of it—it’s roughly 98% water and 2% sugar—and you get maple syrup. North American explorers drank the sap, calling it “the wholesomest drink in the world,” or so the lore goes, and it’s long been drunk in rural villages in South Korea, where the tree is called the “gorosoe,” or “good for the bones.”

Rubin says all of these novel types of water, like artichoke water, sprung from the desire to make a better plant water than coconut water.

"So they (the artichoke water creators) looked for the plant with the highest nutritional profile. I'm not sure if they thought about if you should be putting a straw in it," Rubin said.

For those who are curious, artichoke water is made using an extraction process of the whole artichoke, and not just the heart. Then, monk fruit and Stevia are added for sweetening.

This rise in popularity of specialty water is partly a stroke of marketing genius, Rubin says.

"I think they're trying to appeal to the coconut water crowd that wants something that supposedly has more health benefits. Every single one of these waters claims that it has more benefits and/or less sugar and/or less calories than coconut water. What they're gearing toward is consumers who want a recovery drink that they think is healthier," she said. "Some of it I think is the American craving for health-conscious, better-for-you beverages."

Which raises the question: Are these waters worth spending the extra cash? Rubin says at the end of the day, drinks like artichoke water and maple water simply offer more electrolytes than coconut water.

"You don’t need all those electrolytes unless you’re exercising more than an hour, or it’s really, really hot out," Rubin said. "These extra benefits, like the vitamins and the things that a lot of these drinks claim, your body can only use so much of a certain vitamin. So everything else just basically gets washed out. So in some cases, with some of these things, you’re basically buying expensive pee."