- Tell us about your business and/or current role?
Charlie (Hoare) and I set up TAPPED Birch Water in 2015, having met whilst working at Innocent 10 years ago.
Birch water is the sap that flows within birch trees. It looks and feels like water and contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, nutrients, and 1% naturally occurring fruit sugars, so gives birch trees everything they need to grow. Birch trees can be tapped once a year, at the end of winter and start of spring, when temperature rises cause the sap to flow up inside the tree.
Working with partners who are experts in tapping birch trees, we have a range of birch waters in 250ml paperboard cans including one 100% Pure Organic Birch Water and several flavours which blend birch water with up to 25% NFC juice. We don’t add sugars, sweeteners, additives or preservatives, so all the drinks have a very simple set of ingredients.
They’re all low in sugar (with no added refined sugars), with the Pure only having 8 calories per 250ml carton and the flavours between 31 and 38 calories per carton. The Pure Birch Water has a very light delicate taste, thanks to the 1% naturally occurring fruit sugars, whilst the flavours are really tasty and packed full of flavour.
Here in the UK our main stockists include Waitrose, Ocado, Whole Foods, Co-Op and Island Poke.
I inevitably do a bit of everything – sales (more on the international side as outside of the UK, TAPPED is available in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Singapore), marketing, supply chain and finance…
- Most rewarding or favourite moment in your career so far?
I love seeing a product on shelf in a retailer for the first time. It’s always a great feeling to know that all the hard work to get the product there means you’re now giving people the chance to enjoy what you’ve been working on.
Doing that for the first time with TAPPED was especially exciting as it had been a year in the making and our first stockist, Whole Foods High St Kensington allowed us to turn pillar into a birch tree with a massive display of TAPPED underneath. It was something we’d been talking to them about doing for 8 months and our first instance of bringing nature and the forest to store. Obviously, we’ve repeated that many times since with a similar buzz!
- Can you tell us about any major projects that you’re working on right now?
Well, we’ve just launched a 1l pack of our 100% Pure Organic Birch Water. “Do you make a larger pack?” is always the no 1 question we get asked at consumer shows, events and instore samplings as people want a better value fridge pack so they can enjoy their daily glass of birch water, and also use birch water as a base for smoothies as it helps reduce over sugar content vs other base ingredients like juice or coconut water. So we’re doing a lot of work to support the launch in Co-Op, Ocado and Whole Foods.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Food & Drink Industry at the moment?
Obviously, there’s the incredible uncertainty surrounding Brexit and lots of threats of tariffs, even more increased costs, paperwork etc…but putting that to one side it really feels like the industry is in a state of flux right now with a staggering amount of rapid change happening. We’re constantly hearing news about high street struggles, whether that’s department stores, or fast casual chains; there’s a packaging revolution happening especially anti-plastic (for which we’re well positioned with our paperboard cans), retailers are redefining what they stand for, most recently with Tesco’s new Jack’s stores, and the pace of product innovation has accelerated…there’s so much happening right now and that’s a lot to navigate.
That said, I think health concerns will continue to be at the forefront of everything, we’re only just getting going. We’ve had traffic light systems and the sugar tax – what’s next? Health just keeps getting more important but confusingly means different things to different people – for some it’s about removing certain ingredients whether specific like say gluten or broader like vegan. That presents huge opportunities though, and the big challenge for the food industry is how to respond to all of this in a timely fashion.
- What will be the most exciting opportunities and/or developments in the UK Food & Drink Industry in the next few years?
For us, the importance of health can be seen by the move from sugary soft drinks to water-based drinks, so we operate at the premium end of this, giving customers something with added value and more interesting than water, and giving retailers premium price points and margins, helping them avoid consumers trading down by switching from carbonates to lower price bottled water, and then dropping out of the market by swapping bottled water for refillable bottles.
- Finally, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
As an optimist I’d like to think that the best meal yet is one I’ll have in the future!