Coconut products experience global growth boom

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Coconut products experience global growth boom


Although coconut water once was considered a beverage one consumes only on an exotic holiday, it now is the “surprise toast of the beverage industry,” according to Mintel, a global market research firm. Citing new research, Mintel said the number of global product introductions more than quintupled (grew 540 percent) over the past five years, and products containing it have been taking off on an international scale.

North America dominates all continents in terms of new product launches, totaling 35 percent of global coconut water introductions in 2012, up from only 17 percent in 2008, Mintel said. Europe followed with 34 percent of the new products (up from 13 percent in 2008), and Asia Pacific accounted for 14 percent of the launches in 2012 (up 9 percent from 2008). Meanwhile, Latin America saw a decline in introductions, with 16 percent of the launches in 2012 (compared to 61 percent in 2008).

“Coconut water contains naturally high levels of electrolytes, including potassium, calcium and magnesium, which have made it popular as a sports drink for natural foods consumers,” said Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst, Mintel. “Coconut water is doing particularly well in the U.S. because both sports recovery drinks and vitamin-enhanced waters are well-established — much more so than in other countries — meaning that people already buy into the benefits of electrolytes in a beverage. Sales of the product have also been helped by its rapid take-up among celebrities and high-profile investments from beverage companies.”

In terms of product claims, “low/no/reduced fat” is the most popular, accounting for 47 percent of all coconut water claims in 2012, Mintel noted. “Low/no/reduced allergens” and “gluten-free” tie at 43 percent each, and “environmentally friendly packaging” and “natural” follow at 42 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

And the popularity of the coconut is not limited to beverages, Mintel added. Just as coconut water products have flooded the market, so, too, have coconut oil offerings. Overall, coconut oil used in foods and beverages accounted for 26 percent of food and beverage new product launches in 2012, up from 15 percent in 2008. With reference to coconut oil used exclusively as oil, the growth over the past five years is even more apparent, with a 780 percent rise between 2008 and 2012.

The top five claims attached to new coconut oil products are “vegetarian” (featured on 53 percent of coconut oil in 2012), “premium” (38 percent), “organic” (38 percent), “all-natural” (21 percent) and “no additives/preservatives” (17 percent), Mintel said.

“The profiles of coconut water and oil have been raised by the multitude of purported health benefits linked to their consumption,” said Laura Jones, global food science analyst, Mintel. “Coconut oil has been implicated in strengthening the immune system, as well as helping to prevent obesity. Coconut oil is also promoted as being cholesterol-free, although it still contributes to cholesterol, and as an oil that can raise the ‘good,’ high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Moreover, coconut oil could particularly appeal to vegans, who prefer a saturated fat source from plant foods.”

Moreover, after coconut water and coconut oil, coconut palm sugar also is increasing in popularity, Mintel stated. Although it’s still a niche product, coconut palm sugar posted a growth of 320 percent in global product launches since 2008. While “organic” is the most popular claim, “low/no/reduced glycemic” and “vegan” each were on 28 percent of launches in 2012. “Low/no/reduced allergens” and “GMO free” each followed at 24 percent, and “natural” came in at 20 percent.

“Attention is centered on the nutritional benefits of coconut palm sugar, namely its low glycemic index,” Jones pointed out. “Moreover, it has a natural image, as it is unrefined, free from chemical bleaching and has no preservatives — hence, the natural positioning.”

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