Coconut water’s cultural power: ‘There is folklore to it’

Photo by Manish Chauhan

Photo by Manish Chauhan

You may be thinking about turkey, but Coca-Cola has coconut on its mind now that it has bought the remaining shares of Zico, the country’s second-largest coconut water brand. Although Zico has annual sales of $37 million, it still lags No. 1 Vita Coco, BevNet reports.

Coconut water hits a lot of marketing buttons: Millennials. Electrolytes. Raw. Sometimes fresh and whole. Much of the coconut water on the market now is made from reconstituted powder, but people can drink it while imagining their straw stuck in a freshly cut coconut — and themselves on the beach.

Culturally, coconut water has stronger standing than many other popular foods and ingredients, because people in tropical climates have been drinking it for centuries. Early Sanskrit writings mention coconuts as a food staple in India, where men still make full-time jobs of climbing coconut trees and cutting down the fruit. Marco Polo called coconut milk “better than any wine or any other drink that was ever drunk.”

“There is folklore to it,” said Melissa Abbott, director of culinary insights at The Hartman Group. That’s not true for, say, goji berries. They “don’t fly as well, because they don’t have food-culture relevance to us.”