Could coconut water be the ideal ingredient for developing 100% juice products that are consumer-preferred alternatives to sugary drinks? One expert predicts it can be.
Gert van Manen, president of iTi Tropicals, Inc., says in an 8 oz. serving of coconut water, there are 36 calories versus 140 for grape, 113 for orange and 150 for pomegranate. According to van Manern, cranberry has only 70 calories but is too strong as 100% juice while 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, he points out, 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,” states 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.”
Van Manen goes on to say, “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 recently designed a new website (www.coconutwaterconcentrate.com) for developers with FAQs, application ideas, news and a calculator for pricing and calories. This calculator can be used to compare the cost and calories for several ingredients, or as a more comprehensive cost and calorie calculation for new beverage development.
Explains Van Manen, natural coconut water is the water inside a coconut. It is naturally filtered for nine to twelve months through the dense fibers of the coconut creating a nutritious, pure and refreshing isotonic beverage. 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 excellent for replacing lost electrolytes from exercise and illness. It may be incorporated into many beverage applications and is regarded as a natural sports drink. In addition to health benefits, coconut water concentrate (CWC) has another compelling attribute for beverage companies: efficiency. 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.
He goes on to point out that brand holders 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. He adds, growing awareness of how much sugar is present, even in healthy 100% juice beverages, can drive consumers away from the brands they love. Building a juice business requires commitment and stamina. Long espoused by elite endurance athletes for hydration and recovery, coconut water delivers a powerful recovery tool to help brand holders recover from evolving consumer health concerns over sugar consumption.
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 coconut cream both with and without stabilizers to the food industry. 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.
When selecting a source for coconut water, iTi Tropicals, Inc. urges customers to carry out authenticity testing to make sure no sugars, additives and/or preservatives are added. While consumer interest is strong, van Manen expressed concern that not all coconut water beverages are labeled correctly. “Some products appear to have undeclared added sugar," he says. "There is a big market for sugar added beverages—much bigger than 100% juice, but they should be labeled correctly. 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. 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, Inc. has led the way in providing the food industry with conventional coconut water concentrate 60 brix and has added organic coconut water concentrate, young coconut water, acidified coconut water and soon will introduce an acerola acidified coconut water concentrate, providing 100% daily value for vitamin C.
iTi Tropicals, Inc. is an independent company headquartered in Lawrenceville, NJ. Its sole business is importing high quality tropical and exotic fruit puree & concentrates. They are constantly searching the globe for manufacturers who meet their high tropical and exotic fruit standards. In business for over 25 years, iTi Tropicals has become one of the leading US suppliers of processed exotic tropical fruits. Over time they have established many long-standing relationships with their suppliers. These relationships enable them to guarantee a reliable and quality supply of tropical fruit for their customers, the company says.
They also provide complete service with their fruit products including the expertise of their in-house Food Scientist with backgrounds in Quality Assurance and Product Development. iTi Tropicals maintains an inventory of both frozen and aseptic tropical and exotic purees, juices, and concentrates throughout the USA. Their focus is on products such as: coconut cream, banana, guava, papaya, mango, passion, pineapple, Açaí, acerola, mangosteen, tamarind and since 2009, the groundbreaking coconut water concentrate.