All About Coconut Water

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 28, 2013

healthytimesblogimageA few years ago, drinking coconut water became all the rage in the USA, and many companies began bottling and canning this tropical delicacy that has been peddled by street vendors in southeast Asia and south America for decades. Historically, coconut water has been a popular drink in these countries where it is available fresh and is relatively inexpensive. These populations have come to rely on the safety of coconut water for their daily consumption, especially since public water in these countries may be problematic.

The topic of coconut water has started to draw a lot of attention from investors and mainstream companies all over the world interested in growing their market share by offering a niche product to those who are a little more health conscious.

The question that has been brought up by many industry professionals is whether or not companies have gone too far in promoting (or embellishing) the benefits of coconut water. Does coconut water deserve the natural energy drink moniker or is it all just hype?

First let me clarify that coconut water is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a young coconut that is about nine months old. Young coconuts tend to have more liquid than meat and it is not until the coconut is 1-2 years old that you begin to find the some coconut meat formation. Initially, the coconut meat starts out as an opaque and slightly gelatinous coating on the inside of the shell and as it matures, the meat grows thicker and the liquid significantly decreases.

Coconut milk, on the other hand, is what is derived from the meat of the coconut and used in the preparation of many dishes or enjoyed as a drink. To make your own coconut milk, simply add the coconut meat, along with its water plus some additional warm filtered water to a food processor and grind it all together. Depending on whether you want coconut cream or coconut milk you can add anywhere from 2-4 cups of additional filtered water. Once it has been ground together, pass it all through a fine mesh and squeeze out all of the liquid. Coconut milk is much thicker and creamier than coconut water, which is why it is used to add richness and creaminess to food (usually sauces) and drinks. One important thing to remember is that when you are making milk or cream from the coconut flesh, make sure that it is completely white, and that the inside smells sweet and not sour.

In the USA, coconut water can now be found packaged in tetra packs, cans, cartons and glass or plastic bottles. Some products offer just water while others include pieces of pulp to add a unique textural experience to the drink.

To validate the sterility and natural properties of coconut water, some marketers mention that coconut water was also used in place of IV fluid in some developing countries because the properties of coconut water mimic the electrolyte benefits of medical solutions such as ringer’s lactate or saline/dextrose solutions.

With all of this hoopla, I wanted to know what makes coconut water so special, so I set out to get my hands on as many different products as I could find. I found a few in some of the more mainstream grocery chains along with a others in some natural food markets. Let me simply say that my results were derived from paying for each of the items and trying them for myself. None of the items were sponsored or donated by any of the companies involved.

My initial research showed that coconut water is high in potassium, certain minerals and antioxidants…so these facts are true. This point alone has encouraged many people to use coconut water to rehydrate themselves after strenuous exercise, but there is one catch that all of the marketing material does not tell you. Although coconut water is full of many good electrolytes, it is also a natural diuretic and may actually cause dehydration if consumed in large quantities.

Another important piece of information that you may not realize unless you read the label is that one 8 oz serving can come in at roughly 40- 60 calories. That’s not a lightweight drink and those calories can add up quickly if you are not careful. This fact alone has led some to compare it to other juice drinks that offer benefits but also come with significant calories.

Athletes that know of coconut waters diuretic properties are creating their own versions of sports drinks to consume on the courts—they include some coconut water, filtered water and mineralized salt to mimic bottled sports drinks–others are adding a little protein for their after workout recharge.

My take on the whole issue is that I love to drink coconut water from time to time, but it won’t replace my daily regimen of lemon water which offers little or no calories and encourages a lower overall pH. I enjoy using coconut products whenever I can, but I choose to be a little more discerning about how much I consume and why. Ultimately, I continue to use them because I enjoy coconut products and not because I am being bulldozed by the marketing machines of billion dollar companies…so you must be careful.

The coconut water industry is currently valued at about $115 billion annually, and heavy hitters such as Coca Cola and Pepsi have made major investments and hold a large stake in the market. Coca Cola invested $15 million dollars in ZICO Beverages, and Pepsi is majority owner in the O.N.E brand of coconut water and the Brazilian brand called Vita Coco. To date, Vita Coco has gathered celebrity investors such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Rihanna behind the brand and currently controls 60% of the coconut water category, which amounts to roughly $350 million in annual sales. In 2012, a class action lawsuit was filed against Vita Coco stating that the company practices unlawful and deceptive sales practices, which has forced them to change their labeling and advertising practices.

So, the nagging question remains—Is coconut water a worthwhile investment in good health or is it just a marketing ploy hatched out of the minds of business moguls who have seen the huge profit potential from a category that continues to grow at a 200% clip annually?

I would like to think that most of my decisions are made based on good judgment, but I believe we are all influenced to some degree in how we shop and what we buy. But the to how we should approach these types of questions lies in the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is

Is coconut water something you should enjoy from time to time? Sure, why not…

It is something that should replace everything else you’ve been drinking your whole life along with the kitchen sink? Probably not…

So the next time you find yourself reaching for the coconut water at the grocery store, make sure to read the label just as you would for everything else because not all coconut waters are created equal. And whatever you do, don’t buy it because you’re buying into the hype, buy it because you enjoy it…

My favorite hands down was the coconut water by Harmless Harvest. Of those that I tried,  it offered the best taste and the best quality in the lineup. My number 2 choice was Amy & Brian’s all natural coconut juice. This product also comes with pulp and is absolutely delicious with NO metallic taste. So if you are curious about which you would like, go ahead and try a few and see which you prefer. After all, it’s about what tastes best to you.

The ranking system for coconut water involved a few categories that are important when drinking a beverage, namely flavor and sweetness. When it comes to coconut water, the clarity of the water is very important too. A good quality coconut water should be fairly clear, so I have included a clarity category as part of the ranking. I also took a picture of each of the products after I poured them into a clear glass, so that you can see the product for yourself. My ranking system below ranks the clarity from 1-3, with 1 being the most clear and 3 being the least clear.

And the results were…

Name of Company: C2O Pure Coconut Water with Pulp, 17.5 oz/520 ml
Clarity: 2
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Light coconut taste
Other comments: This is a canned product that lists Thailand as the source of the product. It has a thicker viscosity compared to the other waters in the taste test, which is a sign that the water may be from more mature coconuts. An added difference has pieces of coconut meat floating in the drink. Also a very noticeable metallic taste to the drink. Mentions it is unsweetened, fat free, gluten free and preservative free.
C2O coconut water with pulp

Name of Company: Coco Libre, 11 oz/330 ml
Clarity: 2
Sweetness: Light to Moderately sweet
Flavor: Very light coconut flavor
Other comments: Packaged in recycled, white plastic bottles. This product states that it comes from concentrate. Labeled USDA organic and Kosher (circle U, D). Does not state where the product comes from. Mentions that it is unsweetened, fat & cholesterol free, gluten
free and it includes natural flavors as an ingredient.
Coco Libre

Name of Company: Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water, 8 oz/235 ml
Clarity: 1
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very clean, pure tasting water with a clean coconut taste
Other comments: Packaged in clear plastic bottles and lists Thailand as source of product. Mentions that it is 100% organic and not from concentrate. States on the label that it applies a low pressure pasteurization process versus a heat pasteurization process to keep the product safe for consumption.
Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

Name of Company: Harvest Bay, 33.8 oz
Clarity: 3
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Has a toasted coconut smell and taste but had an off taste yet was well within the sell by date.  Tasted slightly tangy/acidic.
Other comments: Packaged in tetra (aseptic) pack with a re-sealable lid or a pull top foil lid, and lists Thailand as source of product. Labeled non-GMO and that it does not come from concentrate. Mentions that it is low calorie, fat free and  unsweetened.
Harvest bay coconut water

Name of Company: Taste Nirvana Real Coconut Water 9.5 oz/280 ml
Clarity: 2
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh tasting coconut flavor
Other comments: Packaged in a clear glass bottles but can now also be found in cans. It lists Thailand as source of product and mentions that it is not from concentrate and does not contain any sugar or preservatives. This product comes in a few variations: one with aloe and another spiced with Thai chile extract. This is also available with pulp.
Real coconut water

Name of Company: Vita Coco 17 oz/500 ml
Clarity: 2
Sweetness: Very sweet, much sweeter than other brands
Flavor:Very little coconut taste
Other comments: Packaged in non BPA, tetra (aseptic) packs with a re-sealable top and lists Brazil as source of product. It is both gluten free and vegan. Mentions that it is not from concentrate but does have ‘less than 1% of fruit sugar’ added to the product according to their website.
Vita Coco

Name of Company: ZICO All Natural Coconut Water, 11.2 oz/330 ml
Clarity: 3
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh tasting coconut flavor
Other comments: Packaged in tetra (aseptic) packs with a pull top foil lid, and is owned by Coca Cola brand. The label states that the coconut water is sourced from around the world, yet lists Thailand as the source of the product. The FAQ section of the website states Indonesia and Philippines as the source. Mentions that it is gluten free, fat & cholesterol free and unsweetened. This product is made from a concentrate and rehydrated. The FAQ section also states that the packaging does not contain BPA.
ZICO coconut water

Name of Company: Amy & Brian’s All Natural Coconut Water, 17.5 oz/520 ml **NEW review
Clarity: 1-2
Sweetness: Light to Moderately sweet
Flavor: Very fresh tasting coconut flavor
Other comments: This is a canned product that lists Thailand as the source of the product. It has a lovely sweetness that is more prevalent than others, but not overly so. It does NOT have a metallic taste because of the can. Packaging mentions that it is ‘all natural, no preservatives’ and that product comes from ‘pure, young coconut water’. I tried the natural juice but this product also comes with pulp.  This was an exceptionally good product.
Amy & Brian's All Natural Coconut Juice

Name of Company: Naked Juice Company, 11.2 oz (330 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 3
Sweetness: The natural juice of this product is not sweet at all
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water without a coconut flavor
Other Comments: This product is packed in an aseptic container with a foil pull top lid. The packaging states that the coconut water comes from Brazilian green coconuts. It also states that the water has naturally occurring  potassium, calcium and magnesium. Packaging mentions that there are no preservatives and no added sugar.  It also states that it is a pasteurized, fat free, cholesterol free and gluten free drink.
Naked Coconut Water

Name of Company: FOCO, 16.9 oz (500 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water without a coconut flavor
Other Comments: This product is packed in an aseptic tetra pack that states is BPA free with a re-sealable top. There are several different coconut water products from this company that include plain coconut water or coconut water blended with other flavors such as mango, pineapple, lychee, pomegranate and pink guava. The plain coconut water was my favorite. This was a perfectly delicious drink that I discovered at the Fancy Food show in NYC and I found it to be an exceptionally good product. The packaging states that the coconut water comes from Thailand, but that it is a product of Vietnam, so a little confusing.  Packaging also states that it is 100% coconut water that contains 5 essential electrolytes; potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium.  It also states that it is fat free, cholesterol free and sugar free with no preservatives. The company rep at the food show mentioned that the product is pasteurized, however the packaging does not add that disclosure for people that may not know about aseptic packaging.
FOCO Coconut Water

Name of Company: Nature Factor Organic Coconut Water, 10 oz (300 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1-2
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh tasting water that has a delicate coconut taste and smell
Other Comments: This is a canned product that I discovered at the Summer Fancy Food show in NYC. It is available to businesses through Edwards & Sons Trading Company. Even though this is a canned product, it does not have a metallic taste at all and is very delicious and highly recommended. It states on the can that it is organic, gluten free and (circle K) kosher. Ingredients state that is is 100% coconut water, and at the very bottom of the can, in the bent crease it says ‘product of Thailand’…a little tough to see.  It states that it naturally contains Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.
Nature Factor Coconut Water

Name of Company: Navitas Naturals Coconut Water Powder, 5.8 oz **NEW review
Clarity: 3
Sweetness: Not sweet at all, although this has tapioca dextrose as an ingredient.
Flavor: No real smell or taste of coconut water
Other Comments:  This is a dehydrated (organic and non gmo) coconut water that retails anywhere from $19.99 to $21.99 for a 5.8 oz bag. I received this as a sample from the company, so was excited to try it. If you try the powder right out of the bag, it is very sweet because of the addition of tapioca dextrose which is a sugar derived from tapioca. The mixing instructions suggest adding 1 tablespoon of the powder to 1 glass of water. It does not state if this is an 8 oz glass of water or something larger, but it does state that there are 15 servings in the bag. 1 tablespoon is roughly .5 oz (half an ounce), and what I got out of the bag was approximately 11 servings.  I used 12 oz of water for each tablespoon, and it came out to $1.82 per serving. Still cheaper than fresh coconut water, and something that is versatile to add to smoothies. You can decrease the amount of water to 8-10 ounces if you would like something more flavorful, but it still will not be too sweet. The drink below was made with 5 tablespoons and 5 – 12 oz cups of filtered water, enough to fill a whole pitcher.  This also comes in chocolate flavor. I did not see it mentioned in any of the packaging where the coconut water comes from, that is eventually dehydrated.
Navitas Naturals Organic Coconut Water Powder, review

Name of Company: ZOLA 100% coconut water with pulp, 17.5 oz (520 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1-2
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water,  without a coconut flavor
Other Comments: Although this product is packed in a can, there is no metallic flavor. This was a perfectly delicious and refreshing drink that I found it to be an exceptionally good product which also comes natural without pulp. The packaging states that the coconut water does not come from concentrate and that it is a product from Thailand. Packaging also states that it is 100% coconut water that contains 5 essential electrolytes; potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium.  It also states that it is gluten free, non GMO, 100%vegan and sugar free with no preservatives.
Zola coconut water, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Name of Company: Purity Organic 100% Coconut Water 17 oz (50 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water,  without a coconut flavor
Other Comments: This product is packed in an aseptic tetra pack with a re-sealable top and is certified USDA organic. The ingredient list states ‘organic coconut water (water and organic coconut water concentrate)’. This was a perfectly delicious drink but is derived from concentrate, so keep that in mind if this point is important to you. The packaging does not state from where the coconut concentrate is sourced, but does state that it is a gluten free product.
Purity Organic Coconut Water, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Name of Company: Thirsty Buddha 100% all natural coconut water 8.5 oz (250 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1-2
Sweetness: Lightly sweet
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water,  with a lovely fragrance of toasted coconut that you can also taste, and makes this very enjoyable
Other Comments: This product is packed in a can, but there is no metallic flavor. This was by far one of the best tasting coconut waters that I have ever had. I discovered this product at the Natural Foods Expo East, and the rep mentioned that they were a Canadian company on the verge tremendous growth. The packaging states that the coconut water does not come from concentrate and that it is a product of Thailand. Packaging also states that it is fat free, sugar free, cholesterol free, gluten free, non-GMO and that it is packaged in a BPA free can. This was truly an exceptional product.
Thirsty Buddha Coconut Water, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Name of Company: Coco Blast 100% natural coconut water 17.5 oz (520 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: 1-2
Sweetness: Moderately sweet
Flavor: Very fresh and pleasant tasting coconut water that is sweeter than most other products, but still very pleasant
Other Comments: This product is packed in a can, but there is no metallic flavor. The packaging states that the coconut water does not come from concentrate and that it is a product of Thailand. The packaging also states that it is fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free, preservative free and that it contains calcium and electrolytes. I have not had a natural coconut water that is this sweet, so if you like your coconut water on the sweeter side, then this one is for you.
Coco Blast Coconut Water, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Name of Company: Jax Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water with Banana, 4.5 oz (110 ml) **NEW review
Clarity: NA, we only tried banana & chocolate
Sweetness: Moderately sweet
Flavor: You really do not taste the coconut water, both the banana and chocolate flavors are prevalent in these two flavors
Other Comments: I came across this product at the Fancy Food Show in NYC. I had never seen the aseptic tetra packs for kids (with attached straws), which is a very clever packaging idea. This product also comes in glass bottles. The packaging states that the coconut is sourced in the Philippines and that low pressure pasteurization process is used.
Jax Coco 100% Coconut Water for Kids, Banana and Chocolate Tetra Packs, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Coconut Water Facts image at top of page shared from www.healthytimesblog.com

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Harmless Harvest May 28, 2013 at 12:33 p

Thanks so much for giving ours a try. Glad you enjoyed it!

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet May 28, 2013 at 6:54 p

It was by far the best out of all of the products I tried!

avatar Edward & Sons July 31, 2013 at 12:12 p

Thank you for reviewing our organic coconut water. Please note that all of our products list the country of origin on the packaging. Our coconut water is no exception—it is a product of Thailand.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet July 31, 2013 at 7:08 p

Thanks for commenting, I do see it now and it is difficult to find because it is in the crease at the very bottom of the can. Thailand is the preferred source of coconut water, so if I could make one suggestion in your packaging it’s to highlight that either as ’100% coconut water from Thailand’ as the ingredient or in mention this in the text that describes the product on the can. I will correct it in my review, thanks!

avatar DorothyK July 24, 2014 at 2:22 p

Just as an FYI, any item in an aseptic package has been aseptically processed, which is similar to flash pasteurization (high heat for a short period of time).

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet August 18, 2014 at 11:53 p

Exactly right Dorothy!

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