Tropical storm in the food and drink market: launches of coconut water quintuple over the past five years

While coconut water was once the preserve of exotic holidays, according to new research from Mintel, coconut water has been the surprise toast of the beverage industry in recent years. Indeed the number of product introductions more than quintupled (+540%) in the past five years (2008/2012) and products containing it have been taking off on an international scale.

New product launches are dominated by North America, totaling 35% of global coconut water introductions in 2012, up from just 17% in 2008. Europe followed with 34% of new products launched last year, up from 13% in 2008, while Asia Pacific accounted for 14% in 2012, up from 9% in 2008. In contrast however, there was a decline in the percentage of products launched in Latin America, with 16% of introductions in 2012, compared to 61% back in 2008.

Jonny Forsyth, Global Drinks Analyst at Mintel, said:

“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. Coconut water is doing particularly well in the US 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 being 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% of all coconut water claims in 2012. Low/no/reduced allergen and gluten free follow with 43% respectively, environmentally friendly packaging (42%) and natural (40%).

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

The top five claims attached to new launches of coconut oils are vegetarian, featured on 53% of coconut oil in 2012, premium (38%), organic (38%), all natural product (21%) and no additives/preservatives (17%).

Laura Jones, Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, explains:

“The profiles of coconut water and oil have been raised by the multitude of purported health benefits linked to their consumption. 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 (HDL), cholesterol. Moreover, coconut oil could particularly appeal to vegans, who prefer a saturated fat source from plant foods.”

And after coconut water and coconut oil, coconut palm sugar is also increasing in popularity. Although still a niche product, coconut palm sugar posted a 320% growth in product launches in the past five years (2008/2012). While organic is the most popular claim (84%), in 2012, 28% of launches claimed respectively to be low/no/reduced glycaemic and vegan. Moreover, 24% claimed to be low/no/reduced allergen and GMO free, and 20% to be natural.

“Attention is centred on the nutritional benefits of coconut palm sugar, namely its low glycemic index (GI). Moreover, it has a natural image, as it is unrefined, free from chemical bleaching and has no preservatives, hence the natural positioning. The recent attention around coconut palm sugar has also lead to more gourmet positioned products being launched, such as Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Coconut Palm Sugar in Canada, Levy Madagascar Single Estate Dark Chocolate, Finland, and Kulau Gourmet Organic Orange Coconut Sugar in the Netherlands.” Laura concludes.


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