Jane Wolfe cracks open the ever-growing coconut sector and finds out what is driving the use of this versatile ingredient and what potential problems its massive popularity may bring
The coconut trend shows no signs of slowing, indeed it is being absorbed into every sector you can name – from superfoods, vegan and raw, to sports nutrition, drinks, chocolate, snacks and bodycare.
The health benefits are certainly helping the continued growth of the market, with coconut being a valuable source of medium chain fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, protein and potassium, as is the seemingly never-ending versatility of coconut oil as a product in itself – being used for everything from weight loss to teeth cleaning – and as an ingredient.
“Manufacturers are finding new ways to incorporate coconut into products to capitalize on the popularity of all things coconut and so grow the market in different directions,” says Essential Trading’s Eli Sarre. However, the best sellers continue to be the basics: “Essential Coconut Oil is our best seller, with sales figures doubling last year, followed by Essential Organic Coconut Milk and Organic Creamed Coconut.”
Too much too soon?
But the market is in danger of becoming saturated with so many new brands continually arriving on the scene. “In the UK competition is fierce,” says Jacob Thundil, founder of Cocofina. “There are a lot of brands, but in the end consumers will choose and there will be consolidation.”
Garry Stiven, founder of Coconoil, agrees: “It’s a market that’s growing very quickly and there are a lot of people coming into it without very much knowledge, arriving on the back of a fad, and that is causing certain difficulties. There are also people calling their oils organic when they’re not, using words like ‘extra’ when there’s no such thing. It’s attracting opportunists. But I think the market will shake out and people will then go to the well known and trusted brands.”
So how can brands stand out within this surge of new entrants? “Number one is a range of products,” says Thundil. “Also we position ourselves as the coconut experts as we have ten years of experience. We’re chasing purity and speciality, and people who really care about these aspects search and
“The way we’re surviving is by pressing and packing our coconut oil at source in Sri Lanka. The majority of the cheaper oils are coming out of the Far East in bulk containers and are being reheated and repacked in the UK,” says Stiven. “This spoils the quality of the oil and denies the countries of origin work which they very much need, as well as unnecessarily creating tonnes of carbon dioxide.”
Drinking it up
The level of interest in coconut water appears to be rising in the UK, partly due to its popularity as an after-sports rehydration drink, and there is a mass of coconut water brands – UFC, Vitacoco, Koh, MightyBee, Buko and Chi to name but a few – but other coconut drink concoctions are also appearing on shelf such as Higher Living’s Green Tea Coconut and Ener-C’s Pineapple Coconut 1,000mg Vitamin C Effervescent Powdered Drink Mix.
And let’s not forget coconut milks, which cover the burgeoning free-from market as well as catering for consumers’ penchant for the white stuff. Offers include Koko Dairy Free’s Strawberry + Calcium drink, Isola Bio’s organic Rice & Coconut Drink and Cuisine Coconut – an organic coconut cream designed for use in cooking – and Ecomil’s agave-sweetened Coconut Milk.
To take advantage of the multifunctional nature of coconut oil, especially as a beauty product, smaller formats specifically aimed at the beauty market are now appearing, including Lucy Bee’s Coconut Oil in a 300ml jar, Tiana’s Pure Virgin Coconut Oil (100ml), and Coconoil’s on-the-go 10ml sachets.
Coconut is also being used in spreads and snacks as well as being a snack in itself. Nudie recently launched Premium Toasted Coconut Chips; Chocolate Chip & Coconut Flapjacks are a new addition from Essential; Nutiva offers O’Coconut Classic and O’Coconut Chia & Hemp snacks; and Cocofina’s new Coconut Macaroon, Coconut & Cocoa and Coconut & Date bars “are selling by the container load”.
A question of ethics
Sustainability and fair trading are increasingly becoming areas of concern for a growing number of consumers who want ethically-sourced products. “Coconuts originate from far-flung countries, which might be considered to be developing countries, and so people need to be sure that the producers are given a fair price for their product and that workers are treated fairly,” explains Sarre.
“The mass market isn’t concerned about sustain-ability, but our customers are,” says Thundil. “We also work with Action Against Hunger which helps undernourished children in all the regions from where we source our coconuts.”
Stiven adds: “To the industry sustainability should be important. To ourselves it’s very important. We work on that in a big way. In West Africa we have a completely sustainable project. I saw what happened to the palm oil industry and we don’t want the coconut oil industry to go the same way.”
Ooh baby, baby!
Just launched by Jeeva UK is Coco Cuddles, an organic, premium, baby skincare range based on a combination of Jeeva extra virgin coconut oil and organic coconut water.
This month Botanical Brands is launching the brand new Living Nature Sensitive Skin Range that is based on organic virgin coconut oil, comprising a Cleanser, Day Moisture, Night Moisture and Hydrating Toner.
Coyo produces a range of dairy-free coconut milk yoghurts – in varieties including Vanilla, Raw Chocolate, Morello Cherry, Mango and Mixed Berry – as well as dairy-free ice creams.
Part of Rude Health’s alternative milk offer is its Coconut Drink with a 2% coconut butter base blended with rice, pure mountain spring water and a pinch of sea salt.
The meat of the matter
MightyBee recently launched its Virgin Coconut Meat, which it believes is set to become this year’s new superfood. It can be used in smoothies, soups, ice creams, curries, salads
Food Focus Listings
Essential’s certified organic coconut range will be sporting crisp new packaging this summer that reflect the exceptional quality of the range. Amongst Essentials top sellers, the range is made with raw, unprocessed, virgin coconut oil, which hasn’t been chemically refined, bleached or deodorised. The oil is ‘raw’ because it is cold-pressed from the white flesh of fresh organic coconuts. With minimum processing, the oil tastes and smells the best (without the bitter ‘toastiness’ of some products) and is packed with valuable nutrients. Look out for Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Coconut Milk and Creamed Coconut for great versatility in the kitchen.
Nutiva O’Coconut Treats
Nutiva O’Coconut treats are the perfect delicious anytime treat. Crafted from lightly sweetened organic coconut flakes, each treat contains 1.5 teaspoons of coconut oil. Coconut oil offers the nourishing benefits of medium-chain triglycerides, including lauric acid. O’Coconut snacks are perfect for lunch boxes, to take on a hike, or anytime you want to satisfy a craving for a sweet, but healthy snack. Enjoy pure coconut flavor with O’Coconut Classic or try O’Coconut Hemp & Chia for a nutty taste and Omega-3 benefits. Non-GMO, Fair Trade, no corn, soy or cane sugar, and only 60 calories per serving.
Optima 100% certified Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil is cold processed and non-GM. We produce from raw fresh coconut flesh and not dried copra. It is a highly nutritious food, a delicious culinary ingredient and is one of the finest cooking oils you can use. Unlike most vegetable oils, it is resistant to the breakdown of fatty acid chains even at higher cooking temperature. Raw Virgin Coconut Oil can be used all over the body as a lusciously nourishing and moisturising beauty treatment.
JASON Smoothing Coconut Hand & Body Lotion is an ultra-moisturising daily lotion that delivers deep, long-lasting hydration. Our intensive blend of unrefined, virgin, certified organic Coconut Oil and Shea Butter relieves the discomfort of extremely dry skin and softens and smooths rough patches. With use, skin feels pampered, and soft and smooth to touch. Also available in the Smoothing Coconut body care range are a Body Wash and pure certified organic Coconut Oil. JASON products are BUAV cruelty free, vegetarian and vegan friendly and always contain no SLS/SLES, parabens, phthalates, petrolatum or aluminium.
Our organic corn is hand-popped with organic coconut oil in artisan kettles and flavoured using real organic ingredients. We use coconut oil because it has a higher smoke point than most plant oils, making it safe to cook with at high temperatures, perfect for pop, pop, popping corn kernels. Available in three flavours, our sweet popcorn is dusted with unrefined, low GI coconut sugar, our savoury popcorns are sprinkled with mineral-rich Himalayan Pink Salt and we’ve packed greens & nutritional yeast into our innovative Cheezy Kale variety. Flavours: Himalayan Pink Salt, Sweet & Salty, Cheezy Kale
ORGANIC*GLUTEN FREE*VEGAN*SOY FREE RRP: £0.99 (20-25g)
Pukka’s organic Virgin Coconut Oil was one of the first coconut oils around and proven by time has shown that it tastes as delicious today as it always did. Versatile for frying at high temperatures, mixing into porridge or just plain tasty on toast, it provides a wonderfully healthy alternative to many oils and butters. Made from the milk of freshly harvested organically certified coconuts which are fermented for 24–36 hours to provide a high concentration of natural medium chain triglycerides, it helps to improve the body’s metabolic rate. Pukka Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is part of Pukka’s growing food range which includes Pukka Hemp Seed Oil and Pukka Ghee.
Natures Aid® award-winning Liquid Coconut Oil provides a healthier alternative to traditional cooking oils and adds extra flavour to your favourite dishes. It can be used as an alternative to butter, margarine, olive oil or vegetable oil in all types of cooking including baking and frying. It’s also great for salad dressings, sauces, dips, smoothies and much more!!! Natures Aid® Coconut Oil Liquid contains 93% Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), equivalent to 13g of MCTs per tablespoon and is made using 100% pure coconut oil from non-GM coconuts and is non-hydrogenated.
Are you watching your sugar intake? Our Ecomil sugar-free range is what you need as it can claim no added sugar, unsweetened, as well as sugar-free. Under food laws, if you say “no added sugar”, you are allowed to add artificial sweeteners or the product might be naturally high in sugar. We think adding artificial sweeteners are worse than adding sugar so we don’t want to go there. But our sugar-free claim also means that our products are extremely low in naturally occurring sugars. In fact under food laws there’s less than 0.5% of natural sugar in these drinks but they taste pretty delicious. Great in the morning for breakfast cereals, porridge or muesli or as a thirst-quenching glass straight from the fridge
Tel: 0208 547 2775
E-mail: [email protected]
Biona Coconut Water is one of the purest, most nutritious drinks available. Made with sweet Thai coconuts, our coconut water is a naturally fragrant isotonic with an impressively high electrolyte content to keep you revitalised and rehydrated. Packed full of organic antioxidant compounds, B vitamins and vitamin C, Biona Coconut Water offers the ultimate refreshing experience without any fat or added sugar. Perfect as a natural post-sports drink or to keep hydrated on the go. Best served chilled.
We take organic coconut butter, which is all the lovely white stuff out of coconuts whipped up until it’s smooth. Then we blend it with organic rice, pure mountain spring water and a pinch of sea salt. The coconut’s good oils give it a creamy texture, while giving you all kinds of nutrient goodies. Like our full range of dairy free drinks, coconut drink is organic and made with no thickeners or sweeteners. Pour on to your favourite cereal or stir into your coffee to make your day instantly sunnier.
With all the nutritional benefits of coconut but none of the strong flavours, this is a great addition to any store cupboard. The coconut is lightly steamed which removes the flavour but retains much of the natural goodness, making it ideal oil for all baking, roasting and frying. Produced sustainably in the Philippines, by a community-oriented business which creates new opportunities for workers in poor farming communities, the only thing added is value back to local people. Available in either 320g (RRP £3.09) or 650g (RRP £5.49) sizes, from good independent food shops.