Water is all the rage these days – especially if it’s flavoured. The appeal and hype of coconut water is made to entice us with its exotic nature, but now there is a flavour that hits a little closer to home and taps into the Canadian spirit: maple water.
Denis Normandin and Franco Amantea want to turn their Montreal-based SEVA Maple Water into a globally recognized brand. In 2012, they launched Seva Maple Water, with Amantea focusing on sales and marketing, and Normandin taking the roles of president and CEO.
The idea came when Normandin saw someone drink the sap right from a maple tree during the harvest in Quebec. He was overcome by the desire to bring the refreshing and nourishing benefits of maple water to tables across Canada and around the world.
Maple water is pure maple sap, which is the clear and nourishing water that flows naturally out of majestic Laurentian Forest maple trees each spring.
Research has found that the sap has natural hydrating properties and contains over 46 bioactive nutrients essential to health, including
- Active antioxidants
- Amino and organic acids
These nutrients help boost immune health, aid in the prevention of degenerative diseases and act as a prebiotic to support digestive health.
SEVA is 100% pure maple sap with no added preservatives, sugar or water.
Their recent appearance on CBC’s Dragon’s Den saw the duo valuing the tree water market at $2 billion by 2025. They went in looking for $200,000 in exchange for a 10% equity stake, valuing the company at $2 million in its current state.
The money would be used to secure inventory during the five- to six-week harvest time each spring, when the sap is filtered, sterilized and packaged.
But is maple water worth tasting?
“It’s like drinking maple water right from the tree!” says Amantea.
I gave their maple water a try. It’s not thick like one would assume sap to be, but it does have a slight sweet after-taste. It was easy to drink and initially tasted more like water than it did anything else. I did not experience any immediate signs of additional hydration had I otherwise drank a glass of water, so opting for this product would require seeking it out for its unique taste and pure dose of Canadian patriotism.
I talked to Amantea about the benefits of drinking and buying SEVA maple water, his experience on “Dragon’s Den” and what’s next for their business.
Vancity Buzz: Can you describe what the drink tastes like?
Amantea: Imagine an ice-cold glass of crisp water. This is what you’ll taste when the maple water hits your tongue. Now imagine that ice-cold glass of water finishing with a delicate hint of smooth maple sweetness.
How does it benefit the community?
Drinking maple water supports the community in many ways. It helps protect our forests by providing local farmers an alternative method of generating revenue (for example: instead of cutting down trees to sell the lumber).
Canada supplies about 80% of the world’s supply of maple products, primarily maple syrup. Production of maple syrup involves boiling down pure maple sap (aka maple water) to concentrate the natural sugars and evaporate the sap.
Each year in Canada, just over 1.08 billion litres of precious maple sap is boiled down into just 27 million litres of syrup.
So then what happens to the ‘nourishing life water’ of the maple trees?
Well, 1.05 billion litres of that sap is evaporated into thin air. This precious sap is evaporated and wasted, rather than packaged and enjoyed.
SEVA Maple Water is on a mission to ‘Save the Sap’ and provide a 100% renewable and sustainable functional beverage that is not only good for the environment but is also good for your body.
Finally, drinking SEVA Maple Water supports the brand’s community-based efforts. We sponsor, donate and volunteer for various community and charity-based events across Canada all year round.
Were you ever worried that it would be a passing fad?
We really believe in the product. Maple water offers so many benefits.
And on that note, what gives SEVA water staying power?
We watched coconut water grow into this massive market and we knew that SEVA Maple Water had the same potential, if not higher.
SEVA Maple Water is here to stay. We’re sure of it. Beyond industry experts predicting that the tree water market will reach 2 billion by 2025, we’ve also seen with our own eyes, how people have embraced maple water.
There are so many applications to it – you can drink it as is, with sparkling water, in cocktails, in smoothies. You can bake with it and even cook with it.
Above all, we know that SEVA is here to stay because at the very foundation of our brand is a really great thing – 100% pure maple water. It’s all natural, low in sugar, comes from Canada’s own back yard, provides health benefits, tastes amazing and is great for anyone at any age.
What was it like on Dragon’s Den?
Being on Dragons’ Den was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. That excitement has more to do with what being on the show represents. My partner Denis and I have worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices. To have had the opportunity to pitch and get a deal from the Dragons was a milestone moment for us.
Can you describe the moment before you went out to pitch?
As the producers prepped us to enter the Den, I was quite nervous. We only had one shot to get it right and make a good impression. We are so grateful to have had this opportunity. We were ecstatic at the enthusiasm that we received from the Dragons.
Were you insulted at all by Michael’s negative reaction?
Like any other product, people will enjoy it, or not, in different ways, for different reasons. I was certainly shocked at Michael’s reaction.
Maple water tastes absolutely amazing – so it came as a surprise that he wasn’t a fan. Michael is known to never make a deal with a brand that has an expiry date.
At the end of the day, we appreciated all of the Dragons’ opinions, including Michael’s.
You got a deal, and with THREE Dragon’s at that! How did that feel when you knew they were in, what has happened since the deal went down?
Yes! Not only did we get a deal, we had two great offers! The life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one, especially at the beginning. My partner and I have overcome many obstacles and experienced many successes to get to where we are today. Getting a deal was icing on the cake.
We are very happy with the decision we made to go with Arlene, Jim and David, and still can’t believe it!
Since the taping of the show, we’ve worked with Arlene, Jim, David and their teams on the due diligence portion of the deal. It has been a crazy and exciting process to go through and we’re still in the middle of it.
We’re very excited about the harvest this year, which happens in March/April, and our plans for the spring/summer. We have lots of exciting things planned and can’t wait to share them!
Where does SEVA Maple Water go from here?
We knew that pitching on Dragons’ Den would bring in a lot of interest – but we had no idea that the volume would be this substantial.
SEVA is now available in over 10 countries across the globe, we’re establishing new partnerships every day and working hard as our business grows.
SEVA is sold at various retailers in Metro Vancouver, including: Whole Foods, Nesters Market, Buy-Low Foods, Marketplace IGA, Bulk Barn and more.
Video of the harvest