The history and folklore of the coconut contains some interesting (and even some bizarre) information. For example, in northern India, coconuts were valued as fertility symbols, with a woman receiving her “special coconut” from a priest, when she wanted to conceive a child. Conversely, in Bali, women are forbidden to even touch the coconut tree. Samoans believe a coconut found lying on the ground is not free for the taking; it belongs to someone who knows it is there. If the coconut is claimed without leave, a magical spirit will taunt the person, or he/she may even be stricken by lightning.

This historical and mythological look at the coconut, plus much more, was one of the topics ofPrepared Foods’ R&D Seminar-East, presented by Don Giampetro, vice president of iTi Tropicals Inc. In his presentation titled, “Coconut: The Whole Nut,” Giampetro also discussed the stages of a coconut’s growth, development and ripening process.

According to Giampetro, there are a plethora of coconut product possibilities, including coconut milk and cream; desiccated, flake and powdered coconut; coconut water; and coconut oil. (See sidebar “Coconuts Abound.”) In addition, the coconut shell or husk can be used to make a variety of products, including jewelry, trinkets, functional household items and more. (ThinkGilligan’s Island, and one gets the idea!)

Even before the nut/fruit is ripe, when it is bright green in color, the juice or milk can be drunk. It is sweet and refreshing, and one green coconut can contain up to 1 liter of milk. In addition, it has the immediate advantage of being sealed in a hygienic container. Moreover, the sterile coconut water can be used for medicinal purposes or for the rehydration of fever or gastroenteritis cases.
--Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor

For more information:
iTi Tropicals Inc. • Lawrenceville, N.J.
Don Giampetro  • 609-987-0550 •

Grabbing Coconuts
When Mintel’s GNPD was searched for food and beverage products with “coconut milk” in their ingredient statements, over 170 new products were found to have been launched in the last decade in North America. For example, Gata Foods has launched a Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt with Wild Blueberry, which retails in a 6oz container. The non-dairy, non-soy product is made with whole fruit and coconut milk and is claimed to contain six live and active cultures. Product claims include no-/low-/reduced-allergen.  Two other varieties, Plain and Marionberry, are also available.

Another product, Happy Day Raw Foods’ Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse, is a soy- and dairy-free product that retails in a 6oz pot. Also available in a Nog Mousse variety, it contains fresh, raw, young coconut milk, organic virgin coconut oil, organic dates and raw cacao.

In the beverage arena, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market’s private label Fresh & Easy Protein Powerhouse Drink contains 93% juice and is said to be a creamy blend of banana, mango, pineapple and coconut, with 30g protein per bottle.

Source: Mintel’s GNPD