Throughout history, birch trees have served regional cultures with wood, medicine, and paper. Now the sap is becoming a favorite health drink known as birch water. Sealand Birk, the Danish company, founded in 2011 by Lars Poulsen, has increased production from 300,000 bottles per year to about 5 million bottles per year while the drink becomes a new global sensation.
As word about the benefits of the traditional folk drink has spread, demand has increased so dramatically; birch water is being compared to coconut water. Its rapid emergence is gaining more attention for the quickly expanding functional foods category of plant and tree waters. Long known for its naturally sweet and pleasing taste in Scandinavia, Russia and China, birch water is becoming popular among those attracted to it’s detoxifying, low-calorie rehydrating properties.
Today Sealand Birk organic birch tree water is sold on-line and in stores in more than 12 countries, including the EU, US, Australia and New Zealand. The drink comes from organic birch trees on a farm in Finland that took two years to acquire certification. Lightly pasteurized at the farm and with ascorbic acid added as a preservative, the birch water is bottled in Sealand, Denmark using recycled plastic. The company sells its line of birch waters in glass bottles, cans and boxed cardboard made from birch bark. They’re available in five flavors: Elderflower, Blueberry, Raspberry, Ginger/Lime, and Original.
Even though the constant scrutiny of traditional medicine requires substantiation of claims of health benefits, birch sap has been used and valued for hundreds of years as a folk remedy. It helps in to treat arthritis, kidney, liver and skin problems, hair loss, and other health conditions.
Birch water has many similarities to coconut water. It contains vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants, and small amounts of minerals including potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and sodium. Its sweetness comes from the fructose and xylitol available in the tree sap. Xylitol is now being used as a commercial sweetener because it is low in calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. It also reduces tooth decay and strengthens tooth enamel.
“With the right marketing and distribution strategies, these new waters will be a $2 billion business by 2025,” said Julian Mellentin, director of New Hope’s New Nutrition Business. “Birch sap is already a big thing in Northern Europe, and it’s been there in Russia, Belarus and all the eastern European countries as a natural thing,” said Lars Poulsen of Sealand Birk. With the overwhelming success of coconut water, industry analysts are predicting substantial growth in sales of birch water as more flavors are added, and distribution is increased.
Sealand Birk harvests organic birch water in a sustainable manner, encouraging forest conservation. The process of tapping the tree involves drilling a hole in the trunk and then using a conduct to lead the sap, or water, from the trunk to a container. When treated properly, the trees are not harmed and can produce again in the future. They can be tapped only once a year for a short period between late winter and early spring before the leaves form. During this time, each tree can deliver around 200 liters of birch water.
Sealand Birch will be attending the Nordic Food Fair in Malmö, Sweden in November, and the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January 2016.