'Healthy' coconut water roaring success

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013

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Ice Cube Beverages director Colin Erickson is riding the coconut water wave in New Zealand.

The Christchurch businessman co-owns the H2Coco pure coconut water brand along with Australian business partners David Freeman and radio and television personality Kyle Sandilands.

They launched the product 18 months ago and sales revenue was already in the millions of dollars, just for the New Zealand market alone, Erickson said.

H2Coco was sold in Countdown and New World supermarkets in New Zealand, and Coles in Australia. From April 1 the brand will appear on Woolworths shelves in Australia.

Australian model Lara Bingle is the company's brand ambassador.

Coconut water itself was nothing new, but people were only now discovering its health benefits, Erickson said.

It was a natural, fat-free, cholesterol-free and gluten-free alternative to traditional sugary cold drinks and sports drinks, he said.

Coconut water had many health benefits and had been credited with curing hangovers, jetlag and providing faster and healthier rehydration for athletes. It contained less sugar (4.2 grams/100ml) and additives, he said.

The consumption of coconut water is already popular in the United States where celebrities like pop star Rihanna have endorsed the product.

Overseas, beverage giants like Pepsi have already started producing coconut water as part of their range of products.

United States retail sales of the drink rose to as much as US$400 million (NZ$500m) in 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Erickson's company Ice Cube Beverages has the New Zealand distribution licence for H2Coco.

So far the health benefits of coconut water had been "a bit of a secret" in New Zealand, which had worked in H2Coco's favour as it worked to establish itself as the leading brand in the local market, he said. H2Coco is manufactured in the Philippines.

Erickson would not reveal the name of the manufacturer in the Philippines in case competitors went knocking but said it was a state-of-the-art facility that also filled orders for Pepsi.

Coconut water is a major export for the Philippines, where exports reportedly surged 81 per cent in the first half of last year to 10.25 million litres, compared to the same period the year before, doubling export earnings to $11.18mfor the half year.

The Philippines Coconut Authority reportedly attributed the increase to the patronage of foreign markets including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Erickson said he met more people every day who swore by the stuff - including top athletes - but also others who had never heard of it. So the potential for growth in New Zealand was huge, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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