It seems like coconut water has become the hottest new thing across the globe. In response to a health crisis where many are afflicted with diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions, people have turned to coconut water as some sort of elixir.
To us in the Philippines, however, it’s not such a big deal. The ubiquitous coconut has been part of our regular diet for centuries. Coconut water or buko juice is a go-to beverage in our tropical weather. We make coconut milk out of the meat and add it to our dishes for a rich and natural taste. We make ice cream, spreads, pies, flakes, sauces, stews, and everything under the sun out of coconuts. We also have a booming coconut industry populated by Filipino coconut water suppliers, farmers, agribusiness owners, and sole proprietors specializing in coconut water beverages. In fact, the Philippines is the second largest producer of coconut in the world.
We’re already well aware of the health benefits brought about by drinking coconut water, but as part of a sector that pushes us constantly to move forward, should we ask ourselves: is it time to revisit coconut water? Can we harness new potential out of an old-time beverage staple? Is it the future of coconut-based commerce?
Before a current mega-brand of coconut water was endorsed by superstars like Rihanna, Madonna, and Matthew McConaughey, coconut water was already something of a “super-food.” Coconut water, which is harvested from young green coconuts from 6 to 9 months of age, is free from added sugars and artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Coconut water is a natural isotonic and has essential calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium electrolytes. Of these electrolytes, coconut water is particularly rich with potassium and typically contains up to 5 times more potassium—and much less sugar and chemicals—than soda or sports drinks.
Believers in coconut water praise its efficacy to lower cholesterol, fight obesity, and accommodate diabetics with its low glycemic index. But even if coconut water can live up to its “magic potion” reputation, it’s important to take note that no two coconut water products are the same, and the case applies to coconut businesses both here and abroad.
Global and local marketing trends
The truth is, the situation around coconut water has become a little more complicated now that the rest of the world has turned it into a phenomenon. Intriguingly enough, gargantuan global brands with an altruistic bent to their business have also seen their fair share of controversy. This comes in the form of inquiry about labor practices, as Third-World laborers still struggle in poverty; the high cost of doing business against so many competitors riding on the same coattails; and the alarming impact to the environment when production is scaled up so high.
But as Filipino entrepreneurs, this is where we can use our strengths to step up. We can take advantage of our familiarity with coconut water and innovate beyond our stock knowledge. Contrary to its association with the elite and niche markets in the First World, coconut water in the Philippines is accessible across social classes, regional groups, and age brackets. This makes it easier for us to draw from what we already know about coconut water and move on to new, locally-appealing products from thereon.
This should also present the opportunity to foster business relations with our countrymen in farms, supplier networks, and trade cooperatives. Beyond being known as an “elixir of life,” coconut water can also be a nourishing source of livelihood and healthy relationships among professionals in the coconut industry. Let’s start local, and shape the future of coconut-based commerce from there!