While coconut water is best known for its hydrating properties, manufacturers are increasingly using it to cut calories and liven up 100% juice beverages, says one formulation expert.
Hydration, recovery, and electrolyte activity are important in sports beverages applications, while more mainstream beverage makers have been keen to cash in on the general health halo imparted by coconut water, says Don Giampetro, vice president, innovation, at New Jersey-based fruit juice concentrate specialist iTi Tropicals.
However, as coconut water is classified as a juice for regulatory purposes, but is far lower in calories, it can also be used to significantly reduce calories in juice blends while enabling firms to retain 100% juice label claims.
We’re barely scratching the surface
He adds: “Coconut water can be labeled as juice, but it does not contribute a high level of calories.
“Therefore, blending with other juices and using it as an ingredient is a potentially significant application that we are seeing and at this point, only scratching the surface.”
For example, replacing a 100% red concord grape juice formulation with a 75% coconut water/25% red concord grape juice blend could enable a firm to reduce calories from 170 to just 67 per 8 floz serving.
He added: “Looking at the larger commodity type juices, such as apple, grape, and orange; coconut water blends well with all of these juices.
“The key to coconut water is that is does not contribute much to color or flavor, and that is a good thing when blending with other juices.”
I do not think the use of coconut water as an ingredient is a fad
While the growth in coconut water launches has been pretty explosive in the past couple of years, it does not appear to be a fad, he says.
“I do not think the use of coconut water as an ingredient is a fad. It is here to stay and more and more applications will sprout up with coconut water, for sure.”
From a technical perspective, coconut water and coconut water concentrate are also “very, very simple” to work with, he adds.
“The product is low in viscosity, translucent in color, and blends easily. Since it does not contribute much in the way of flavor, it makes it a very easy ingredient to blend with a variety of other juices.
“To reconstitute 60 brix concentrate is easy as well, as it is like a thick syrup. By adding water, you can easily work up to the single strength level that is needed.
“It really enhances other products and makes better products when used as an ingredient.”
Interest in acai leveled off a bit, but there appears to be a resurgence
But what other fruits are gaining momentum as we head into 2013?
“Items like passion fruit, mango, guava and papaya have become more and more commonplace”, says Gaimpetro. “However, items like dragon fruit, soursop, tamarind, and acerola continue to be in demand.
“Acai is an item that was extremely popular over the last few years, leveled off a bit, but now seems to be in a resurgence again.
He adds: “The larger bulk juices will continue to be out there, however, the use of exotics/tropicals will continue as consumers look for new products and product developers look to bring new varied products to the market.”
The rise and rise of coconut water…
Coconut water is a translucent, fat-free, low calorie liquid from the inside of young green coconuts that is rich in potassium and magnesium, which has made it very popular in sports and hydration beverages as a natural isotonic juice and source of essential electrolytes.
The range of beverages containing it has skyrocketed over the past two years, with products ranging from top-sellers Vita Coco and O.N.E. Coconut Water, to PepsiCo-owned SoBe Lifewater’s Pacific Coconut, to Coca-Cola-backed Coco-Refresh Vitaminwater and ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water, which was the ‘official coconut water’ at the London Olympic Games this year.
Other more interesting launches this year include additions to Maverick Brands’ Coco Libre Coconut Water and Chia range and RealBeanz's ready-to-drink gourmet iced coffees with coconut water.
TetraPak: Working to arrest effects of enzymes that degrade coconut water
In a video on our sister site Beveragedaily.com (Click here to watch it), Kit Lai, director of Tetra Pak’s Soya- and Coconut Knowledge Centers, says sales of coco-nut water-based beverages in Tetra Pak packages have grown significantly in the past five years, with the global market now estimated to be worth around €270m ($349m), driven primarily by Brazil and the US.
Work is also progressing to increase shelf-life in coconut water-based beverages following the discovery of two enzymes that are activated the moment coconuts are cracked, he reveals.
“They are responsible for the color changes of coconut water, making it look visually unattractive. We are now establishing processing methods that will be able to arrest the effects of these enzymes and provide a longer shelf life without compromising the nutrients and taste.”
The achievement is all the more amazing because it’s a premium-priced category
Writing in Coconut water 2012 earlier this year, New Nutrition Business director Julian Mellentin said the market for coconut water beverages grew 100% in 2011 taking the combined retail sales value of the US and European markets to more than $265m.
“The achievement is all the more amazing because it’s a premium-priced category. The market is expected to grow another 50% in 2012.
“Coconut water is ‘naturally functional’: it naturally has 15 times the amount of potassium found in the equivalent volume of most sports drinks.”
Coconut water has only 19-24 calories per 100ml versus 43 calories for orange juice
He added: “As well as being isotonic and naturally sweet, coconut water is low in calories - with only 19-24 calories per 100ml, compared to 43 calories per 100ml for orange juice.”