LOS ANGELES — Daniella Hunter prepared for customer backlash against her tortillas when she opened The Real Coconut restaurant in February 2015. Creating tortillas with coconut flour was a risk, but her customers called it a hit.
“I never expected that people would be so receptive,” she said.
The customers at the restaurant on Tulum Beach in Mexico encouraged her to put a retail product on the market. The Real Coconut, while still the name of the restaurant, also became the name of the company manufacturing retail products. The company began operating out of a factory in Los Angeles. Chips made with coconut flour launched in January of this year. Tortillas made with coconut flour appeared on retail shelves a month later.
All the ingredients in the retail products from The Real Coconut are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified. All the items at The Real Coconut restaurant are gluten-free, non-G.M.O./non-bioengineered and grain-free.
Working with coconut flour comes with challenges. It absorbs a lot of water for one, Ms. Hunter said. The company continually adds water to the tortilla line in the Los Angeles facility.
“We have to be quite aware of what the moisture levels are like there,” she said.
“They actually hold up really, really well,” Ms. Hunter said. “Our tortillas really act in a similar way to corn tortillas. Yes, if you leave them lying out without any sort of packaging, just like a corn tortilla they will start to dry out, but it’s not dramatic.”
Ms. Hunter said in the future her company plans to sell baked foods, including cookies, at retail, but she will use plantain flour for them.
“Coconut flour is really difficult to work with,” she said. “It’s got a wonderful taste, and you can use it as a pizza base and in tortillas and chips.”
Difficulties arise in bread. Some commercial producers have combined coconut flour and egg ingredients, Ms. Hunter said.
“(The bread) becomes very eggy and very dense,” she said.
Plantain flour performs better in bread since plantains grind well and have a good amount of starch, she said. The Real Coconut eventually will offer cookies with plantain flour, which comes with a nutritional benefit in resistant starch, she said. One negative is the flavor can be bitter and strong. Blending in coconut flour might offset the unwanted flavor.
“Mainly because the (coconut) flour we use has got this lovely flavor,” Ms. Hunter said. “It can actually help to offset a little bit of plantain flour taste.”