Coconut juice—or coconut water, as it’s known internationally—is something that we, Filipinos, have grown up loving. We find them at the beach (in coconut shells with little umbrellas), on the streets (in plastic bags) and at the mall (in paper cups or plastic tumblers from food kiosks). The Philippines is probably the largest consumer of coconut water. It’s also the largest exporter of coconuts, accounting for 53 percent of the world’s exports.
This number should grow with the increasing popularity of coconut water in the western world, driven by its evolution from an exotic drink into a trendy lifestyle drink. Celebrities such as Madonna
have been spotted enjoying the healthy beverage, not on the beach in summer, but out of a carton in the middle of the city.
Is pre-packaged coconut water the new hot thing in the beverage industry? Under “functional beverages,” a category that addresses the beverage needs of a modern fast-paced lifestyle, packaged coconut water has been gaining traction in the United States and other developed countries because of its health benefits and convenience. Pasteurization methods and aseptic packaging, like Tetra Pak, can extend the juice’s shelf life for up to 12 months. Such is the case of Madonna-approved Vita Coco, a pioneer in the segment. Its products are made of coconut water with Vitamin C and less than 1 percent natural fruit sugar.
Other brands have since entered the market to take advantage of the growing demand. Each of them has different ingredients and preserving processes. For example, Zico is made from concentrate (higher sugar content) and natural flavors (extracted from natural sources but are mostly processed) while Taste Nirvana is 100-percent natural (with pulp!). Flavored coconut water is also available.
Here at home, Pepsi’s Tropicana brand came out with their own version of Tetra Pak-packaged coconut water, Coco Quench (SRP: P80 for 1L and P30 for 330ml). The ingredients list shows that it has coconut water, reconstituted coconut water, sugar (less than 1 percent) and sodium metabisulfite. Anything reconstituted means its water content has been reduced for easier transportation before being rehydrated for packaging. Sodium metabisulfite is the inorganic preservative and antioxidant that prevents the product from spoiling.
Perhaps due to the reconstitution and additives, the taste is quite different from fresh coconut water. It still, however, contains electrolytes, potassium and most of the original benefits. Of course, if there’s a fresh buko juice vendor near you, there’s no point in buying and staking up on the pre-packaged variety. Otherwise, Coco Quench (and others like it) seems like a sensible, convenient and functional choice. And hey, it’s trendy too.