Study: finds «tropical storm» in food and drink market

Chicago / IL. (mi) 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 (plus 540 percent) in the past five years and products containing it have been taking off on an international scale.

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

Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at Mintel: «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 been 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 percent of all coconut water claims in 2012. Low/no/reduced allergen and gluten-free follow with 43 percent respectively, environmentally-friendly packaging (42 percent) and natural (40 percent).

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 percent of food and drink new product launches in 2012, up from 15 percent in 2008. With reference to coconut oil used exclusively as oil, the growth over the past five years is even more apparent, with 780 percent growth between 2008 and 2012.

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

Laura Jones, global good science analyst at Mintel: «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 lipo-protein (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 percent growth in product launches in the past five years. While organic was the most popular claim (84 percent) in 2012, 28 percent of launches claimed respectively to be low/no/reduced glycemic and vegan. Moreover, 24 percent claimed to be low/no/reduced allergen and GMO-free, and 20 percent to be natural.

«Attention is centered 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», Jones concludes.