iTi Tropicals, Inc. predicts that within five years, coconut water concentrate—as an ingredient–could be as significant as pineapple juice concentrate. Having helped launch coconut water in 2009, iTi says it has since tripled its own production capabilities and forecasts that demand for coconut water concentrate will only grow.
“Some of the cleanest, least-processed packaged foods on the market are 100% juice products,” says Gert van Manen, iTi Tropicals president. “Compare the ingredients in a 100% juice beverage to just about any other beverage—and most will have added sugar, many with unpronounceable ingredients. If ‘clean label' is a trend with consumers, then 100% juices can capitalize on this!
“Currently, the focus is on the amount of calories in 100% fruit juices, so address this and reduce the calories while maintaining 100% juice,” he continues. “It is our challenge and goal to educate and provide the tools to develop 100% juice products that are consumer-preferred alternatives to sugary drinks.”
iTi Tropicals says coconut water is an ideal ingredient to accomplish this goal. In an 8oz. serving of coconut water, there are 36 calories versus 140 for grape, 113 for orange and 150 for pomegranate. Cranberry has only 70 calories but is too strong as 100% juice. A combination of 100% cranberry juice and coconut water could be a powerhouse of low calories and full of nutritional value.
Pomegranate, mango, coconut, cherry and other juices have many well-known nutritional values. However, coconut water is translucent in color, has a gentle flavor and low viscosity, making it easy to blend with any juice.
“I don't quite understand how the juice business is under attack for naturally occurring sugars,” notes van Manen, “when you eat beets, carrots or even broccoli, you consume naturally occurring sugars. Sure, some of the juices on the market have little fiber but many purees we carry, such as banana puree, are an excellent source of fiber. Nothing has been removed, just the peel.”
He continues, “All smoothies have banana puree added to provide viscosity. Sometimes satiety is a problem for high-viscosity beverages. Consumers are left with the feeling of being too full or having consumed too much. Coconut water can be used to reduce thickness of highly viscous purees and yogurts. Reducing viscosity using coconut water allows you to formulate a product that's 100% juice, while using water as a diluent reduces the juice content proportionally. And, being relatively bland, coconut water does not interfere with other flavors. Capitalize on the clean label, nutritional values, flavor and reduce the calories. What beverage could compete with such stellar, clean and healthy attributes?”
iTi Tropicals says it has launched a new website (www.coconutwaterconcentrate.com) for product developers. It includes FAQs, application ideas, news and a calculator for pricing and calories. Officials say formulators can use the calculator to compare the cost and calories for several ingredients; or as a more comprehensive cost and calorie calculation for new beverage development.
Get the 411: Coconut Water, Concentrate
Natural coconut water is the water inside a coconut. van Manen notes that it is naturally filtered for nine to 12 months through the coconut’s dense fibers and creates a nutritious, pure isotonic beverage. He says coconut water is naturally sterile and has five essential electrolytes, more potassium than a banana, no added sugars, no fat, no cholesterol and no preservatives. It is ideal to help consumers electrolytes lost due to exercise and illness. It may be incorporated into many beverage applications and is regarded as a natural sports drink.
It is important to distinguish coconut water from coconut cream and coconut milk. Coconut cream is a smooth, thick liquid made from the meat of fresh coconuts. The principle fatty acid in coconut cream is lauric acid, which is the same fat found in abundance in mother's milk, and is known to promote normal brain development and promote healthy bones. iTi Tropicals, Inc. supplies food processors with coconut cream in variations with and without stabilizers. The lactose intolerant population is growing and coconut cream can be used as a dairy replacer in products like coffee creamers and ice cream, but also as a replacement for milk when poured over cereal.
In addition to health benefits, coconut water concentrate (CWC) has another compelling attribute for beverage companies: efficiency. van Manen says the standard for coconut water is such that one load of 60 brix yields approximately 18 loads single strength. For comparison, one truckload of pineapple concentrate yields approximately six loads.
iTi Tropicals says manufacturers are discovering coconut water as a negative sugar juice ingredient. Stevia and erythritol are natural sweeteners that are powerful tools for increasing perceived sweetness. However, coconut water offers a way to reduce sugar without abandoning a 100% juice claim. Using it in tandem with higher sugar juices subtracts sugar from every serving of 100% juice blends. Growing awareness of how much sugar is present, even in healthy 100% juice beverages, can drive consumers away from the brands they love. Long espoused by elite endurance athletes for hydration and recovery, coconut water delivers a powerful recovery tool to help brand holders address consumer health concerns about sugar consumption.
When selecting a coconut water supplier, iTi Tropicals urges beverage manufacturers to analyze samples for authenticity. This ensures that there are no added sugars, additives and/or preservatives.
van Manen says not all coconut water beverages are labeled correctly.
"Some products appear to have undeclared, added sugar. There is a big market for sugar-added beverages, much bigger than 100% juice—but they should be labeled correctly,” he says. “Consumers who don't want added sugar will be disappointed if they find out that they are drinking a sugar-added beverage.
“Regulators won't be happy either,” he continues. “This is why we spend so much time travelling the world to select and understand supply, and know who we are doing business with. We also always test for authenticity."
iTi Tropicals provides the food industry with conventional coconut water concentrate (60 brix) and has added organic coconut water concentrate, young coconut water, acidified coconut water. The company says it also plans to introduce an acerola-acidified coconut water concentrate that provides 100% daily value for vitamin C.