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Market for Coconut Water in Europe and USA




Coconut water is one of the fastest growing beverage categories in the US and UK (estimated to reach $1bn soon) due to its natural hydrating qualities, great taste and nutritional benefits, not to mention the large number of celebrities drinking it. It is a great source of nutrients, contains calcium and magnesium, and the same amount of heart healthy potassium as a banana or a glass of orange juice. And that’s just a few of its ‘superdrink’ claims. With a mass appeal to ethical and health conscious consumers and those leading an activity lifestyle, and some are predicting it could overtake the sales of orange juice (as has already happened in Brazil) it’s no wonder big brands like Pepsi & Coke are getting in on the act.

There are now 250 companies that have a beverage with some form of coconut water in it.

The UK coconut water category has exploded in the last few years and is widely being tipped as the next big thing in the drinks category and estimated to be worth £100m by 2014 [The Grocer July ’11] and is already worth over $350 in the US.

According to a 2012 report by New Nutrition Business the number of coconut water beveragelaunches in Europe quintupled from 2009 to 2011, ballooning from seven to 36 brands. Retail sales grew 100 percent in 2011 and the current value of the European market is estimated to be worth $65 million. (The report values the U.S. coconut water market in 2011 as ranging between $110 and $200 million.)

There are now over 20 brands in the UK market (see chart at end), many small but also some significant players too.

The leading brand in the UK (and world) is Vita Coco, launched here in 2010, with sales of £8.5m in 2011 and 96% of the market. Sales between 2011-2012 have risen by 168%, and are rising still. It’s stocked in most supermarkets and health food shops.

Vita Coco is the market leader (in US and UK) and was originally founded in the US (it sources coconut water from Brazil and Asia). It is credited with creating the market (in the same fashion as what Red Bull did for energy drinks, Snapple for cold tea and Innocent did for smoothies).

The recent explosion of the coconut water category can be explained relatively simply; it meets growing consumer demands for natural, healthy products. There is a growing awareness of health & fitness issues, even though obesity is on the rise across Europe and the US – it is estimated that 45% of men and 33% of women in the UK will be obese within the next few years.

While some people manage their weight, others “offset”. Offsetting is really a token gesture, even if swapping a full fat coke for a low calorie one is a step forward, it’ll take more than a can of coconut water a day to stay healthy.

Back in 2010, there were only a handful of coconut water brands gracing the shelves of specialist food stores, but by 2012 there are over 20 coconut water brands in the market, all vying for space within this rapidly growing and seemingly lucrative category. In terms of scalability, the coconut water market is huge.

‘We’re seeing compelling data across all channels demonstrating the mainstream appeal of Vita Coco. In natural & health specialists, Vita Coco is their No.1 packaged drink of any non-alcoholic drinks including any water or cola brand. One of the leading supermarkets where Vita Coco 330ml pure is national distributed in all stores, Vita Coco, whether absolute revenue, units, unit or value rate of sale, is the No.2 branded Impulse line in chilled Juice & Smoothies, ahead of all other branded line apart from Tropicana orange Juice 330ml (last year for 7 weeks was ahead of Tropicana orange juice 330ml!). 1 litre is enjoying equal success and we’ve just seen two major supermarkets extend us from 200 stores to over 650 stores.’ said Vita Coco Europe chief executive Giles Brook.

With leading retailers such as Waitrose and Tesco clamouring to stock coconut water, the market is set to expand. The real battle though will be between the brands for market share.


Whilst it’s entirely plausible to think of coconut water and its inherent health benefits as recent discoveries, the reality points to a much more established history. For the Western world, dating as far back as WWII, coconut water was widely used for emergency plasma transfusions.

However, coconut water has long been a staple for people in the Tropics as a fresh and accessible source of hydration. For places like Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and South America (Brazil is one of the main suppliers), coconut water provides a sweet tasting and readily available alternative to water or sugary soft drinks and juices. The taste can vary due to its source.

Harvested from the young green coconut, the extracted water is clear with a light flavour, unlike coconut milk which is squeezed from the white pulp and is full of fat.

The coconut tree has often been referred to in some cultures as the ‘Tree of Life’, due to its versatility; as each element of the tree can be used in some facet; whether it is the oil extracted from the coconut acting as a natural skin and hair moisturiser to being a great source of potassium, higher than that of the banana.

And now it is rapidly becoming a favourite go-to drink for athletes, nutritionists and celebrities the world over as a healthy alternative to glucose based sports and energy drinks. Athletes and fitness fanatics are swopping to coconut water for its high potassium and mineral content and the promise of fast, natural hydration. Even though many of the benefits of coconut water or many sports drinks are insignificant unless undertaking a lot of exercise, health conscious individuals are looking for a tasty alternative to water that has no preservatives, no fat, no cholesterol and fewer calories than your average flavoured waters, fruit juices or smoothies.

A key element that has contributed to the rise in coconut water’s popularity is due to its perceived health benefits and it being segmented in the ‘superfoods’ category. By tagging certain food as superfoods, their marketability (and in turn profitability) can often increase tenfold.