Once the company hits its funding goal of $10,000 (it has reached $7,136 in its first week on F&B crowdfunder PieShell), it will begin online sales via Amazon in mid-August 2017 and expand to in-store distribution in Boston, co-founder Nicolás Estrella said.
“Consumers will initially find us in natural health stores and ‘green’ restaurants and cafes in the Boston area,” Estrella told BeverageDaily.
Estrella and his co-founder Juan Giraldo travelled to the southern part of Ecuador to a village in the middle of the Andes Mountains called Chuquirabamba where they met local farmer, Miguel Tambo.
Tambo brewed and served them an ancestral “tea-like” drink made from a blend of medicinal herbs known by locals as the “el aqua que cura” (the healing water) who have consumed it for centuries for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties, according to Estrella.
Appealing to US market
WanKu ('wuan-koo') is based on the traditional recipe found in Ecuador but with a few tweaks to help it appeal to US consumers including reduced sugar content and the use of organic, non-GMO ingredients. Each 16-ounce bottle will retail for $4.99.
“We follow the same process we learned from them: we brew the leaves; we don’t use concentrates,” said Estrella.
The beverage’s main ingredients include water, lime, sugar cane, stevia, and a blend of more than 20 herbs and flowers including lemongrass, a mix of flowers (rose, violet, and carnation), mint, chamomile, red root amaranth, peppermint, fennel, and others.
“Fifteen of the plants used for WanKu have analgesic properties, 13 help the digestive system, 12 are anti-inflammatory, and 10 can help with stomach aches,” Estrella said.
Estrella said the company is tapping into trends presented by the Specialty Foods Association at the 2017 Fancy Food Show, including 55% of consumers who said they are willing to try new things and the 37% of consumers who are seeking out more healthy and natural products.
The company said it will spend the next year building brand awareness of WanKu through in-store demos and partnerships with social media influencers and bloggers.
Creating sustainable value chain
WanKu said its goal is to create a sustainable value chain for the ingredients that go into its beverage. By increasing demand for medicinal herbs at fair-trade prices, the company aims to help improve the livelihood of Ecuadorian farmers who cultivate WanKu’s ingredients through access to better production resources.
Other resources will be training on sustainable agricultural practices and guidelines for obtaining certifications such as Fair-Trade Certified and USDA Organic certification for their crops, which will translate into better yields year-over-year, the company said.