Waving palm trees, pearly white beaches and a cobalt blue sea. That is the image most people associate with fresh coconuts. The summery image of this exotic, however, is gradually fading. There is a market for fresh coconut water, straight from the nut, in winter as well. And that market is gradually growing.
“The market for coconut water is growing considerably,” says Mick Zwolle from Cocobomb International. “We see the market going through a transition. The fresh coconut was a typically Asian exotic, but you can now also find them in supermarkets more often.” That growth is mostly thanks to the healthy aspects of coconut water, to which more and more attention is paid.
This young import company started in 2015 with the trade in fresh coconuts from Thailand. “We started with the shaved coconut, or the diamond-shaped coconut, as it is called in Thailand,” Mick explains.
The importer consciously chooses to import the Nam Hom coconuts from Thailand. “Coconuts from other countries are also available, but the Nam Hom is the most aromatic and the sweetest,” according to the importer. The market prefers this sweet and aromatic coconut water, which also showed in tests done by Mick. Time and again the Nam Hom variety performed better than other coconut strains.
The effects of the Thai seasons can be seen on the market due to the relatively narrow base for supply. The summer months, when demand in Europe reaches its peak, are the months during which there is little supply from Thailand because of drought. During the winter months, demand from Europe is lower, but that is when the season in Thailand has its peak. Although the peaks in supply and demand do not overlap, that is not causing problems for the supply. “If you only import coconuts during the summer months, it could be tricky, but because we import year-round and work with permanent suppliers, it is not a problem for us,” Mick says.
While the European market has mostly worked with middlemen since its foundation, Cocobomb personally takes care of exports increasingly often. “We see much demand for coconuts in Eastern Europe. Additionally, we are trying to introduce coconuts into the major EU countries,” Mick continues. In the summer of 2017, the coconut should also be introduced in Southern Europe. With that, Cocobomb will initially join in on the long summer in the southern half of the continent, but eventually supply should be year-round.
Despite the growth of the European market for fresh coconuts and coconut water, the market can still not be compared to the volumes traded in the US or Asia. “In Asia, the young coconuts can be seen literally everywhere, but in Southern Europe, we are only just starting with it,” Mick says about the potential of the market. Besides, Cocobomb will tap a new market during the first quarter of 2017. The importer will then present the first organic young coconuts. These nuts are meant for specialist shops and organic supermarkets, a niche market with much potential.
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