Vincent Villanis claims his Bamboo Water is the first beverage in Canada to use the plant as a core ingredient. By using bamboo – an abundant plant suitable for growth in many countries including emerging economies – he believes its nutritional value can be harvested worldwide.
The low-calorie and fat-free drink – described as ‘sweet and clean’ tasting – could be on the shelves in North America in June, with a Kickstarter campaign currently raising the necessary funds.
How to survive in the jungle
Villanis has a long history with bamboo, starting with his childhood in the Phillipines.
“A soldier would teach us how to survive in the jungle,” he told BeverageDaily.com. “One of the coolest things I remember from that was how to identify a young bamboo plant, and create an opening on one of the culms and drink the water from inside the bamboo in order to hydrate and survive.”
He started a bamboo farm in Canada five years ago, which was when the idea of using bamboo leaves grew.
“I had to be innovative on what was the most sustainable product I could develop and market,” he continued.
“I had an abundance of bamboo leaves, which we had used for making tea when I was a child. This is what initially got me interested in bamboo as a potential drink.”
He has since been working with scientists and beverage manufacturers to meet requirements to market the beverage in Canada and the US, as well as additional countries. His beverage is essentially water infused with an extract from bamboo leaves.
‘Bamboo water has the biggest potential’
Bamboo water could be launched in numerous countries using local bamboo resources, said Villanis. Bamboo leaves are usually discarded by farmers during the harvest – but bamboo water would make the most of the nutritious resource.
Bamboo – which is technically a type of grass – is the fastest growing plant, growing around 10cm a day. This makes it a key renewable resource for emerging economies.
Villanis’ first beverage project was bamboo beer, but he has now moved onto bamboo water – a project that has occupied him for the last three years.
“I imagined myself going to my homeland or the third world, and how would people look at me if coming with an alcoholic beverage - as opposed to water with a lot more benefits,” he said. “That’s what took me on that route. Bamboo water has the biggest potential: not just monetarily, but in transferring technology to other countries.
“My greatest lesson learned from launching bamboo beer that I will apply to Bamboo Water is to act local and think global. Bamboo Water has the ability to reach the amazing eco and health conscious movement happening on our planet. We believe this will happen organically with bamboo water because unlike beer, we can share this beverage to everyone. “
Villanis adds that bamboo plants absorb CO2 and release 35% more oxygen than the equivalent stand of trees.
What does it taste like?
Bamboo Water would sit well on the shelf near coconut water, said Villanis. Asked to describe the taste, he says adjectives like ‘clean, fresh, bright, energizing, sweet, and cool’ have been used in taste tests.
The drink is blended with sugar cane (which is itself a bamboo species), although a sugar free option is to follow.
“There are over 1,500 species of bamboo and amazingly, the species that can grow here in Canada (the same species that giant pandas eat) had the best test results.
“Cross referencing the species to our mentors and Dr. Cherla Sastry of University of Toronto made it clear that we can leverage these species for beverages. We worked with several beverage manufacturers, and beverage R&D companies in Ontario to identify the best approach to market this product.”
Villanis references the Institute for Traditional Medicine, which says the plant is used in Chinese medicine thanks to its antioxidants, silica, fibre, and anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves are traditionally used to heal fevers, insomnia and headaches among other illnesses.
Kickstarting the drink
Bamboo Beverages (the company behind the brand Bamboo Water) now intends to raise $50,000 this month via crowdfunding site Kickstarter. This will allow it to meet the minimum production run.
“We currently have over 50 stores ready to promote and carry Bamboo Water,” Villanis said. “We have also been in discussion with several distributors who love the taste and the vision and have intent of distributing Bamboo Water when we launch.
“We are hoping to have Bamboo Water on the shelves by June.”
Bamboo Beverages is seeking to raise $50,000 Canadian dollars by 27th April through Kickstarter.