Coconut water offers new beverage options

by Allison Gibeson
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Consumers looking for natural food and beverage options may find what they need in coconut water, which has been described as an all-natural isotonic sports beverage. Pure coconut water doesn’t need much modification in terms of its isotonic balance as it is balanced in terms of sodium, potassium and magnesium content, making it a good hydration option, said Tracy Mosteller, senior applications specialist for beverages with Danisco, New Century, Kas.

While it may provide good hydration naturally, taste is always a primary consideration to consumers. In that regard, coconut water does need modification, Ms. Mosteller said.

“Coconut water can be very polarizing in terms of its flavor,” she said. “Coconut water in its pure form has a very distinctive flavor — it’s a very earthy flavor. Some people don’t like that, so what I’ve seen coming along are a lot of products being launched that are blends.”

Jessica Jones-Dille, senior manager of industry trends and market research with Wild Flavors, Inc., Erlanger, Ky., said the trend started with street foods. For example, in Brazil consumers often drink coconut water straight from the coconut, and several years ago this was seen with street food vendors in New York City, she said. But straight coconut water generally doesn’t have a sweet enough taste for most American consumers.

“The early coconut water products in the U.S. had some nice flavors associated with them, but the taste of the coconut water itself is not sweet enough for the American palate,” Ms. Jones-Dille said. “If you taste some of the newer innovations, they are using fresher coconuts, they are balancing the profile with fresh coconut flavors ... and pairing it with more tropical flavors that can balance it out and give it some more acidity.”

To this end, Ms. Jones-Dille said she sees manufacturers using a per cent of coconut water in a beverage and blending it with other products much like how a per cent juice is used in various beverages. The end result may be a coconut water juice blend or a coconut water tea blend. Wild also has created sports drinks with coconut water.

iTi Tropicals, Lawrenceville, N.J., markets coconut water as a low-calorie base for 100% juice blends. Examples cited by the company include a cranberry juice, coconut water blend to reduce the tartness of the cranberry juice. Another option includes blending coconut water with an apple or red concord juice to reduce calories.

Popular flavors to use with coconut water include anything citrus because it provides acidity. Overall, Wild has developed mango, passionfruit, acai berry, strawberry guava, lime citrus, tropical pineapple and pomegranate berry flavors that work well in coconut water. In addition, Danisco has products that help boost hydration and the fiber content of coconut water products. A product called BetaPower may help boost hydration and Litesse polydextrose may be used to boost fiber.

Ms. Jones-Dille said coconut water products should be marketed by demographic, with specific target markets including children, men and women. She said consumers try coconut water because it is something different and have potentially heard about it from the media. But one of the biggest barriers to consumers trying coconut water is the fact it is still primarily in the natural foods section. Ms. Mosteller said a misperception is that coconut water tastes like coconuts — and it does not.

Naked Juice Co., Monrovia, Calif., a Coca-Cola brand, has a coconut water product, and Los Angeles-based One National Experience has various products, including a line marketed for total hydration and a line of active products marketed for total performance. ZICO Beverages, L.L.C., Hermosa Beach, Calif., has a line of Pure Premium Coconut Water, and recently introduced Pina Tropicale and Tao Mango flavors to the line. ZICO said it doesn’t add any sugar, juice or puree content to its flavored products.

More mainstream, PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., and GNC, Pittsburgh, announced they will be launching fortified coconut water products under the Phenom brand name beginning in the second quarter of 2011.

In terms of innovations needed to boost the market in the future, Ms. Jones-Dille said there needs to be continued research into the types of flavors and complementary ingredients coconut water works well with. She said it will be important to see how retailers adopt coconut water products in a more mainstream way.

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