If you believe all the claims made for coconut water, a tropical beverage exploding in popularity in the West, you’d think you were dealing with a magical elixir.

“Nothing will touch it as a hangover cure,” says New Zealand’s first importer and distributor, Colin Erickson, who markets the H2coco brand through his company Ice Cube Beverages. It was even used as a replacement for blood plasma during the Vietnam War because it contains all the electrolytes a body needs.

“It’s an amazing fluid.”

Coconut water is the liquid inside young, green coconuts, not the coconut milk we all know. Hugely popular in the tropics, a new flash pasteurisation process has brought it to the West – and sales are exploding.

It is a powerful rehydrator and contains most of the electrolytes athletes need. But, according to Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at UC Davis quoted in the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, there are missing pieces.

It is fine for what Applegate calls the “typical working-out person” but not for those in intensive training, because it is low in carbohydrates and protein, and while extraordinarily rich in potassium, it doesn’t have enough sodium. But most important for many health-conscious people, it is natural, and low in fats and sugars.

Pepsi and Coke have bought stakes in US coconut-water firms, while one US brand, Vita Coco, announced in May that it was on track to double its yearly sales to $US100 million.

Enter Erickson, offering H2coco through both major supermarket chains. Gaining shelf space in 160 supermarkets in just three months is no small achievement, he said, with chains often notoriously hard to crack with new products. Now it’s about consumer education through offering free samples and through the media, he said.

Overseas, celebrity endorsements, including one from Madonna, have been a feature of marketing. Erickson said he planned to emulate that here, but had not yet settled on who would front such a campaign.

Pure coconut water is traditionally slightly sour in taste, which many like. For others, H2coco is offering pineapple, pomegranate and other berry flavours.


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