Coconut water first came to the attention of Westerners when it was used in IV drips during World War II. It was found to be the closest alternative to saline solution, which was then in short supply. Now more commonly consumed by mouth, sales of bottled coconut water have this year taken off around the world.
It seems drinking coconut water out of the bottle has become just as appealing as drinking it from the real thing, on a beach, on a tropical island. Between
2008 and 2012, the number of coconut water product introductions increased by 540 per cent internationally according to research by Mintel, and New Zealand is getting amongst it.
A report by Pacific Islands Trade & Invest in 2012 showed New Zealand coconut imports are on the rise with a 32 per cent increase between 2007 and 2012. Countdown alone stocks 13 different brands of the stuff, including a ‘chocoespresso’ flavour.
So why is it so popular? Coco’s Coconut Trading say consumers have finally realised how good it is for them. They say it’s electrolytes, potassium and magnesium make coconut water “better than water”.
Many websites praise its high potassium levels as being better than sports drinks - a theory proven by the Manu Samoa rugby players as they drink straight from the coconut after a game. And many women, according to Coco’s Coconut Trading, are replacing their vodka tonics with vodka coconut waters as a way of cutting out the sugar, preservatives and calories. They say there’s 60 calories in a coconut water drink compared to a glass of wine with 160 calories.
But shoppers don’t just love coconuts for their water. A scan through the supermarkets shows coconut oil, flour and sugar now sit alongside the classic dessicated coconut and coconut cream. The range even stretches to coconut charcoal – the manufacturers claim it can increase energy levels, reduce the body of ‘excess waste’, aid in weight loss, improve the immune system, improve hair quality, promote anti-aging, and improve clarity of mind..
However, before you commit shelf space to the coconut craze, bear a thought for the next outlandish vegetable product to spark customers’ enthusiasm - cactus water. Its apparent anti-inflammatory qualities may make it the next coconut water.