Estonian birch water start-up ÖselBirch is planning to push into new markets, after securing listings in 100 outlets nationwide since its launch in 2016.
The partly crowd-funded business – the company raised €24,000 on Kickstarter last May – currently offers six variants of its organic fermented birch drinks, including al Sour, Nordic Mojito, Gingerly and Thorny (“savagely healthy” in case you were wondering). The family-run business is based on the Estonian island of Saaremaa (Ösel is the old spelling of the name).
ÖselBirch co-founder, Anne-Liis Theisen, says that inspiration for the range came from traditional recipes handed down by her grandmother.
Birch sap is harvested just as the snow begins to melt, usually around March or April in Estonia. Birch water is traditional beverage in the Baltic nations, Russia, Canada and the Nordics. It is rich in minerals such as potassium, zinc and manganese, as well as naturally occurring enzymes, and in its fermented form produces potents probiotics.
ÖselBirch says that it worked with a specialist fermentation laboratory to develop processing that avoids pasteurisation and preserves the natural nutrient profile of the birch water.
With a sharp, slightly bitter taste (“think vegan kefir”), fermented sap is said to be perfect for cocktails and mocktails, as well as being a naturally tangy healthy drink, taken straight.
In an interview with the trade website nutraingredients.com, Theisen explains that ÖselBirch is now sufficiently developed to begin developing an export business. She comments: “Birch sap is a beverage that needs a lot of explanation. If you go to some countries, they don’t even know that you can tap water out of a birch tree. Because it’s a product that needs an explanation, we’re looking to expand first of all into Scandinavian countries because it’s tradition and they’re aware of the beverage.”
She adds that Germany and UK are also potential target markets. And she explains that the company sees its products being positioned increasingly in future as ‘functional beverages’, and that they will want to maximise opportunities around birch water’s multiple health benefits.