Coconut water – healthy invention with a tropical twist

17 December 2014

Beverage Packaging Innovation speaks with film-maker, entrepreneur and founder of Chi, Jonathan Newman, to find out what is causing the rapid rise of coconut waters.

Beverage Packaging Innovation: What have been the key trends you have seen in 2014, and which do you feel will be the key drivers of 2015?
Jonathan Newman:
Health appears to be an overarching trend affecting drinks. The start of the year saw a huge amount of press around sugar levels and the industry has responded by creating a host of lower-sugar alternatives - for example, by replacing refined sugars with Stevia. Chi has responded by replacing unrefined cane sugar in coconut chocolate and dairy-free milks with coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is a low-GI alternative to sugar and retains the health benefits and minerals associated with coconuts.

Drinks that have traditionally been seen as niche products, such as coconut water and free-from alternatives, are increasingly dominating the category. The coconut water market has grown by 159% annually and free-from sales have seen a surge, with more than 55% of the UK population buying free-from products. Chi has seen the results of this across our range of dairy-free coconut milks and coconut waters, with the 330ml Chi Pure Coconut Water, Caffe Latte Coconut Milk and Chocolate Coconut Milk being the bestsellers.

Where do you see the greatest growth opportunity for Chi?
Coconut water has always had a large customer base in the health sector, but in recent years this base has diversified and grown. Celebrity endorsements have transformed coconut water from a health-based product into a desirable lifestyle drink. This influence will continue to develop, with coconut water beginning to dominate the soft drinks aisles.

The free-from market is a key growth area for Chi. There are three dairy free products within the range: the Chi 100% Natural Chocolate Coconut Milk, the Caffe Latte Coconut Milk and the Natural Coconut Milk. The range is set to increase with new product launches in 2015.

With recent stories in the media reporting that Sainsbury's has seen a 442% increase in sales of coconut oil, this will also be a key growth area for Chi. The company is currently producing 12,000 jars of coconut oil every month, with figures set to increase throughout 2015 as consumers begin to become more educated about the benefits of coconut oil.

Are there any new product launches you are able to discuss, and when do you think they will be ready?
We have a number of new products launching next year, which will be announced in the next few months. One new range will use brand new technology that will ultimately have a transformative effect on the category.

In the coconut categories, what are some of the functional or health benefits of the products?
Coconut water has a number of health benefits. The high levels of naturally occurring electrolytes help to keep the body hydrated, making it ideal as an exercise drink. Coconut water is also fat-free and naturally low in sugars, carbohydrates and calories.

The dairy-free Chi Chocolate Coconut Milk and the Caffe Latte Coconut Milk also have a number of health benefits. Both contain added chicory fibre, making them prebiotic, which aids in digestion. One cup of coconut milk contains protein; good fats; fibre; vitamins B, C and E; and is a rich source of potassium, selenium, calcium and iron.

Chi Coconut Oil is naturally gluten and lactose-free, making it an alternative to butter for those with an intolerance. The versatile oil can be used for cooking, spreading and beauty. The oil has a high smoking point and is non-toxic when heated, making it an ideal replacement for frying in butter or olive oil.

While film-making is Jonathan Newmans’ trade and also first love, he is also a true entrepreneur at heart. UK born, but raised in LA and London, Newman got the idea for Chi while holidaying in Thailand. He continues his film work while ensuring the successful launch of Chi.

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