Coconut Water Gains Ground

Flagged a rising star, coconut continues to gain ground in the global beverage market. Drink giants are seeking to secure a piece of the profit pie. Last year, PepsiCo acquired Amacoco, Brazil's largest coconut water company. Also last year, Coca-Cola purchased a minority stake in Zico, another coconut water company.

Shaheen Majeed, marketing director for Sabinsa Corp. (East Windsor, NJ), which offers its Cococin line of coconut ingredients, attributes coconut's rise in popularity to a number of reasons.

Among them, coconut water is said to provide higher amounts of electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium, than conventional sports drinks. For this reason, says Majeed, athletes in many countries such as Brazil and India commonly drink coconut water. And, he says, coconut water is so prevalently used in these countries that it is sold on street corners.

Majeed says that Sabinsa saw coconut's potential market growth in the food market a few years ago, when the company decided to get Cococin self-affirmed generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Originally, Sabinsa had introduced Cococin for the cosmetics market. "We have studies that show that skin cells rejuvenate quicker after use of Cococin," he says.

Sabinsa now also offers Cococin in two food and beverage formats: a water-soluble version for beverages, as well as a more recently introduced concentrated Cococin syrup.

"Having these three grades of Cococin, we're seeing an immense amount of interest and leads now," says Majeed. "People are coming up to us saying, ‘Can we formulate it this way, or this way?' They're interested in using it for a variety of applications, especially on the functional foods side."

As far as beverages go, "Everyone's been looking for the next beverage trend. It's almost inevitable that the market would stumble upon coconut water," says Majeed.

"It's an exciting new category," said Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson when the company's Zico acquisition was announced.