COCONUT water is making a splash in the US beverage market, promoted by manufacturers and fans as the healthy way to hydrate.
"It's an exciting category right now," says Arthur Gallego, spokesman for Vita Coco, which recently got an endorsement from none other than the pop singer Madonna.
Coconut water - the liquid found in green, i.e. young, coconuts - has been popular in tropical countries ever since someone figured out how to crack that nut.
And it has been available in packaged form in ethnic markets and natural food stores for some time in the United States.
But now it is showing up in mainstream supermarkets, packaged in juice-box style packages and coming in an array of flavours, such as peach-mango and tangerine.
"What is incredible to see is that the consumption of coconut water has trickled down from the natural food stores to the mainstream," says Rodrigo Veloso, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based O.N.E., One Natural Experience, makers of O.N.E. Coconut Water.
Veloso's company is bringing out a new product, O.N.E. Active, which sports fewer calories than its regular coconut water and adds ginkgo biloba, ginseng and catuaba. Itcomes in three flavours, including lemon-lime.
Yes, it is true. They are putting the lime in the coconut.
Already, coconut water has created some big-name buzz.
Besides Madonna, Matthew McConaughey and Demi Moore recently invested in Vita Coco, which was founded in 2004 and saw sales jump from about $US4 million ($4.27 million) in 2007 to $US20 million ($21.37 million) in 2009, according to Gallego.
Meanwhile, Pepsi has invested in O.N.E. A third company in the market is Zico, founded in 2004.
While coconut water sales are growing, in the $US40 ($42.74) to $US60 million ($64.1 million) range annually, they remain a drop in the bucket compared to billion-dollar drink brands like Red Bull, says Jeffrey Klineman, editor of Bevnet.com, an online review publication about nonalcoholic beverages.
"It's definitely got people excited, but we don't know how big it will be when it reaches the plateau," says Klineman.
"The question is, is it a nine-figure plateau or a billion-dollar plateau. Whether they become part of the beverage firmament is still not really settled."
Fans of coconut water praise it for being fat-free, relatively low calorie, natural and packed with important nutrients.
For instance, a serving of Vita Coco contains almost 700mg of potassium, more than a banana. – AP
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