Coconut water promoted as the natural isotonic of choice

Coconut featured in over 6 per cent of global juice drinks launches in 2014.
Coconut featured in over 6 per cent of global juice drinks launches in 2014.

Recent efforts to promote coconut water as the natural and healthy soft drink of choice have already moved it into the mainstream in the US. Manufacturers are now also focusing on developing the European market.

Coconut water is made with juice of young, green coconuts and is already a popular drink in many Asian and Latin American countries. It can be promoted on an all-natural platform, while also offering many of the isotonic benefits of mainstream sports drinks. It features calcium, magnesium and potassium in a hypo-allergenic format with no need for additives, not even sweeteners.

Coconut featured in over 4 per cent of global soft drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months ending June 2014, rising to nearly 10 per cent in the US. This does cover the use of any coconut flavours and ingredients, not just coconut water, however. The products mainly sit in the juice drinks market, either alone or in combination with other juices.

Global juice drinks launches

Coconut featured in over 6 per cent of global juice drinks launches in 2014, up from 4.5 per cent in the previous 12-month period and from less than 2 per cent five years ago. This rises to over 13 per cent in the US market, where over 8 per cent of sports and energy drinks launches also featured coconut water.

"With sales of traditional carbonates and still drinks relatively static in many markets, the industry appears to be turning to coconut water, which seems well placed for the task of driving growth with its exotic image, unusual flavour and natural hydration properties," Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights notes.

"These features, along with the fact that the leading multinational soft drinks companies are already taking an active role, suggest that the sector is on course for significant further development," she concludes.

Product activity has continued apace, particularly in the US, where the relatively well-established market is now segmenting to maintain momentum. A review of launch activity recorded by Innova Market Insights over the past year includes a coconut water variant of Rockstar, one of the leading US energy drinks brands, as well as protein-fortified products, such as Nature's Best Cocotein and a Coco Libre Protein range.

Flavoured options

Flavoured products featuring coconut water with lemonade, espresso coffee, chocolate and even chili extract have also been introduced, as well as more carbonated lines and products specifically for children.

Levels of interest in coconut water also appear to be rising in Europe, where the UK has seen particularly high levels of new product activity in recent months. Nearly 8 per cent of juice and juice drinks launches featured coconut in the 12 months to the end of June 2014, up from less than 5.5 per cent in the previous year.

There could be a further boost with the August 2014 launch of PepsiCo's Naked coconut water onto the UK market to join the other two US market leaders, Vita Coco and Coca-Cola's Zico, which have been present in the UK for some time.

Recent new product activity in the UK has largely followed trends set in the US, with Vita Coco introducing Orange and Lemonade variants, as well as extending its Kids pouched range from the original multi-packs into singles. Zico has also introduced a new 1 litre format. Domestic soft drinks company AG Barr also launched a Coconut Water into its Rubicon exotic juices range. Private label activity varied from the Bestway cash-and-carry operator to upmarket retailer Marks & Spencer.