Beverage Startups

The Success Story Of Natural Birch Sap

The Success Story Of Natural Birch SapI grew up in the Northern Europe, where birch sap is a common drink. Although, I have never liked the taste of the raw product gathered by my grandfather, brands like Birchiq have changed my mind. Today, I am extremely happy having a chance of talking with Solomiya Goloborodko, the President at Birchiq.

1. Tell us the story behind Birchiq. How did you come up with the idea of creating birch water?

Before I will share my story, I would like to clarify that we haven’t created birch water, rather it is produced by nature for thousands and thousands of years, and all we do is bottle a drink that’s created by nature. Growing up in Ukraine, my husband Valeriy would visit his grandparents who lived in a village during early spring time and while there he always went to the forest to tap birch trees and collect birch water. This craving for thirst quenching birch tree tapped water followed him throughout the years.

In 2006 when my husband immigrated from Ukraine to USA he was always checking in various European food store if they sell birch water, so he could purchase it and enjoy it as a daily drink like in his childhood. He wanted to re-introduce it to me as I immigrated from Ukraine in 1997, when I was 8 years old and hardly remembered the taste. What he found was that Eastern European stores did sell birch water, however he told me it tasted nothing like the birch water he hand collected himself.

The “birch water” that was sold tasted more like regular water (probably diluted birch sap) with sugar and citric acid. Valeriy didn’t like that taste, neither did I, but we would buy occasionally (when I would see new brands) with hope that something close to the taste of childhood will be found, unfortunately we couldn’t find any. Around two years ago my husband and I visited Ukraine and his grandmother had birch water that was from the tree to the bottle, which I tasted for the first time as an adult and I really loved it. I told Valeriy that now I really know why he wasn’t satisfied with the taste of what is offered in stores in USA. I loved the taste so much that the idea of introducing 100% pure and 100% organic birch water to people in USA came to me in that moment. It wasn’t yet an idea of doing business, though, I was thinking about bringing a few bottles back to USA to give it to my friends and family.

Traveling throughout Ukraine and visiting different cities, I noticed how people of Ukraine struggle financially. I noticed many forests are being cut for lumber and I thought, I want this to be changed, so I came to Valeriy and told him that I want to start a business of selling birch water in USA to let people of USA enjoy taste and health benefits of this elixir of health, how people in Ukraine called it. Also, I wanted to give an opportunity to make a living for those who are in financial crisis. Last but not least, it broke my heart to see fields of tree stumps where once beautiful forests flourished and I wanted people to realize that nature deserves to be treated better than just to be cut down for lumber. During that 9-day trip to Ukraine in 2016 I asked Valeriy to help with finding the right people to collect and produce birch water that will taste as it was just tapped. He joked, “Only if you will make me your Vice President”.

2. Birchiq is a one flavor beverage line. Can you tell us more about ingredients and benefits of drinking your product?

As I mentioned above, we started as the company that introduced 100% pure and 100% organic birch water to the USA market. There was no one else who did, and I believe there is no one else who does at the moment produce 100% pure birch water. There are a few other companies that sell birch water, but they have citric acid added, which makes it taste a bit different. In Eastern and Northern Europe, some regions of China birch water is known as a healthy drink, which helps to rejuvenate body, improve metabolism, detoxifies, aids in join pain relief, restores electrolytes, and even help oral health due to the fact that the naturally occurring sugar that it has is xylitol.

The Success Story Of Natural Birch SapAs the company grows we are starting to introduce other flavors – with natural wild blueberry juice, rosehip, and sour cherry. We are a healthy drink company, so all we add is natural juice (which gives a flavor and color) and a tiny bit of beet sugar to blueberry and sour cherry flavored birch water for those who prefer sweetened drinks.

Birch water is a healthy drink with a very good taste, which is acquired for some people, but after they drink a few bottles, they can’t stop drinking it.

3. Gathering birch water is quite complicated process. What are the main steps of developing birch water?

Birch water collection period usually lasts only 14-21 days, but there are years like 2018 as example where collection period was only 5 days. Collection starts with first warmth after winter and ends when buds on branches start appearing. When first sunbeams of spring shine through and the winter snow begins to melt, the roots of a birch tree reach deep down into the earth seeking water to replenish the tree. Water makes its way upward from the roots and incredible energy rushes from the root to the top of the tree, the sap is on the move.

The water is being enriched with nutrients by the tree and the sap is ready to be collected. We carefully tap birch trees and place a pile into the tree to collect water into big glass jars. Birch water is hand collected, and in order to keep it 100% pure, in order not to add any preservatives to it, it needs to be processed within hours from being collected. We can do that because our production is right by the forest. Taste of birch water depends on how high tree is tapped, how wide the trunk of the tree is and if forest is in a valley. Knowing these distinctions, we make sure that people drinking BIRCHIQ are drinking birch water at its best.

4. Creating beverage brand is a difficult journey. What are the challenges you faced?

Since the beginning of BIRCHIQ we’ve gone through many challenges that we had to overcome. To produce 100% pure and 100% organic birch water we had to find a production facility with a forest nearby and people that will live close to go to forest and collect birch water for us. My husband is Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Seattle and was a big help finding really good people to work with in Ukraine. But even for him it took months to find what I needed to produce 100% organic and 100% pure birch water.

There are multiple companies in Ukraine that produce birch water, all of them add citric to it… many add sugar as well but I didn’t want to compromise on quality. Next step was to create appearance of our product. Products people consume are overloaded with ingredients that are not always beneficial for their health. We offer a simple product, that is why I wanted a simple design as well. Registration of Birchiq brand followed the design part. At the same time, we started production certification. Luckily, because it is a product of forests, we didn’t have to wait for 2 years to get USDA approved organic certification and could receive it right after inspection of collection and production.

Although it was all new for me, a mother of 4, I saw the goal and moved towards it. Having a business it’s constant challenges and overcoming them gives you more adrenaline to move forward. Now we face another challenge – to find the right distributor who will help us to enter supermarkets.

5. Every milestone reached is extremely important for each brand. What would you say is Birchiq’s biggest achievement so far?

As you see from mentioned above, there are many milestones reached by us on our path, but what is our biggest achievement? I believe that achievements really matter only if they bring benefit not only for one person or family, but for a larger community. We present the highest quality product in a very nice, in my opinion, packaging to our clients, we created jobs where people struggle financially and pay them above the average standard, we save forests from being cut for lumber, and support good causes where we live and around the globe.

Isn’t it an achievement to be able to make a good impact at home and globally?The biggest achievement business-wise is that we are becoming a recognizable brand. For more and more people in our state Birchiq is at least something they heard about or even tried. We were contacted by bloggers and local media outlets that got interested in writing about our unique product.

The Success Story Of Natural Birch Sap6. There are many interesting birch water and birch sap brands. What makes Birchiq differ in the beverage market?

There are a few other birch water brands on the market. Some of them do very good job presenting themselves and I have to say that their product is not bad at all. As the matter of fact, if I didn’t try 100% pure birch water, I would enjoy drinking one that has citric acid added to it. Similar to us other companies also keep forests from being cut and although they add citric acid, they still sell a good for health birch water.

In addition to the fact we are the only company that offers birch water as it comes from a tree (100% pure), we also donate percentage of proceeds to clean water projects around the globe.

Giving back is in our philosophy, that is why we also support organizations that serve our servicemen and servicewomen, educational system and good cause marathons. Our flavored drinks also very simple ingredients wise and all natural. To notice difference between Birchiq and other brands, you need to try products. As one of our clients expressed, “one sip said more than all your words”.

7. Where can consumers purchase this beverage? Are you planning to spread across the border?

Although Birchiq is very unique and great product, beverage market is very competitive. It is really hard to get product on the shelves of big chain stores. So we started with online sales on Amazon and Walmart. Then we added independently owned stores and cafes, which are very neat, in Washington State. A list of those can be found at our website. As business grows retailers like Metropolitan Market express interest in our product and starting beginning of 2019 we will be present at their stores. A few other chains are interested in Birchiq as well, but discussion is still in early stage.

8. What is your advice to other beverage startups?

When my dad taught me to drive, he told me to look at the place where I want to get and not at the obstacles. Identify your goal. Put a detailed plan of reaching your goal on paper, then put it aside for a few days and revisit it. Do that a couple of times. Having a great product is vital, but without character of a fighter, without ability to no matter what to see the goal I would fail miserably. Be ready to fight for your dream, often with yourself. Always compete, compete with yourself. Strive to be better today than you were yesterday. And value your reputation above any money. Money is something if you lose, you will make back. If good reputation is lost, it’s almost impossible to earn it back. Be ready for a slow growth, which is sometimes better, because you are less likely to under deliver.

For more information visit Birchiq website.

About Ugne Butkute

Ugnė Butkutė is a project manager at DrinkPreneur. Ugnė is responsible for attracting contributors, maintaining quality of content and keeping readers satisfied with DrinkPreneur

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