We interviewed founders and cousins Chas Smith and Nikita Salmon, whose family has been producing maple in Vermont for decades. Their products first hit local shelves in August of 2015 and the following year, gained the momentum they needed to enter into 150 stores throughout New England.
As for the future, the pair has ambitions to become a national brand in the next few years, with presence in all of the large grocery chains.
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
Nikita: Our family comes from the maple industry here in Vermont and has been producing maple for decades. We are closely tied to what we refer to as the “Working Landscape” economy – crafting products from the resources that our land naturally gives to us. During the maple season, it is common for people to drink maple sap (what maple syrup is originally made from) straight from the maple trees collecting the sap in buckets or tanks. Chas and I decided to put a twist on this drink that our family – and so many Vermonters – know so well.
Chas: Maple sap in its original form is a water-like liquid, and has just a hint of maple sweetness to it. In our family we have always crafted maple sap drinks in a specific way – removing a little bit of water from the sap (concentrating the sap slightly) to bring out more of the natural sweetness of the sap while also increasing the nutritional profile of the products, and then adding carbonation to the drink to elevate the tasting experience even further.
The Drinks’ Ingredients & Their Health Benefits
Chas: Our sap products are made from single ingredients: maple sap and birch sap. These products are 100 percent pure from the tree, with no water added. Sap is the lifeblood of these trees; it is the carrier of the nutrients that help the trees to grow. Don’t worry, no trees are hurt in the process of tapping! Maple sap contains a myriad of health properties that promote gut health (prebiotics), hydration (electrolytes from magnesium, calcium, potassium), and general body function (antioxidants from polyphenols, 46 vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients). Birch sap comes out of the tree less sweet than maple, and contains anti-inflammatory properties (from natural salicylates), antioxidants (from polyphenols), contains natural resveratrol (3x the amount found in red wine), and has anti-cavity properties (from naturally occurring Xylitol). Birch sap is basically a holistic health drink.
Gaining Nationwide Exposure Through Its Amazon Partnership
Nikita: Amazon has been great for us. Being such a Northeast-centric brand, Amazon has allowed us to sell nationwide, which is amazing for a small company. I will say, it is tough to make money shipping heavy beverages across the country, though. That being said, the benefits of making the products available to customers throughout the country is worth it for the exposure of our brand.
Pros & Cons to Working With Your Cousin
Chas: Nikita is stronger and better looking that me, so that is tough. [Laughs] But more than anything, it’s about trust. Starting a business is hard enough. Being able to trust your business partner is everything, and I am very fortunate that have that trust with Nikita.
Nikita: All pros! [Laughs] The family aspect of the business is special. It is not just Chas and me, but our whole family and community behind us helping to make this happen. Chas and I bring very different skill sets to the table, so we make a good team.
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