The growing interest in health and wellness has been the main driver for the US sales of coconut water, said Ms Yen, adding that people are becoming more proactive when it comes to issues concerning their health.
They are seeking healthier food and beverage options with simpler ingredients and less sugary options.
There is a definite movement to ‘back to basics’ eating and drinking, Ms Yen noted, seeking out foods and beverages with simpler ingredients. Coconut water is very firmly within this group and has benefited as a result.
She said official figures show the US coconut water market growth rate in 2015 was 27% with US$778 million in gross revenue, adding that many market researchers are now predicting that by 2019 coconut water sales will hit US$1.9 billion.
The US coconut water market is dominated by only a handful of companies with the largest three being – Vita Coco, O.N.E. and Zico.
She said Betrimex has now entered the market with its new product, Cocoxim, a canned coconut water, and has received a favourable initial response. The company is also in the preliminary stages of market entry into other markets such as Canada, the EU, Australia and Japan.
Betrimex has shipped many coconut products to foreign markets in the past, but due to consumer health concerns related to coconut water it was never profitable to market the product worldwide and it was generally just discarded.
Now that various medical reports have come out confirming that coconut water does not pose any threat to health and is in fact just the opposite—very nutritious, all that has changed.
During the first half of this year, Betrimex shipped roughly 1 million litres of coconut water to the US, Europe and some Asian markets, said Ms Yen, and fully expects that figure to multiply exponentially by year’s end.
Adding some flavour
As coconut water grows in popularity, Ms Yen said Betrimex plans on adding new varieties to innovate the juice product with flavours such as pineapple, lemonade, chocolate and mango.
Coffee, watermelon and tea flavours also are popular in the US market.
In line with this, Harmless Harvest Inc. based out of New York launched 100% Raw & Organic Coconut Water with Fair Trade Coffee last year in Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
The beverage mixes raw coconut water with organic Peruvian coffee beans, said Ms Yen, adding that maybe Betrimex will do something along this line with Vietnamese coffee.
Finding the supply
The main challenge competitors in the US market face is supply as the US imports most of its coconuts from South Asian countries.
According to published reports, nearly 90% of the annual global production of coconuts comes from five countries: Indonesia, which produces 18 million metric tons; the Philippines, producing 15.9 million metric tons; India, contributing 10.6 million metric tons; Brazil, which produces 2.9 million metric tons; and Sri Lanka, which contributes 2 million metric tons of coconut.
Ben Tre Province is home to coconut trees with cultivation areas of more than 70,000 ha and has the latent potential to become a major player in the global coconut water market at some point in the future.
In conclusion, Ms Yen said plans are in the works by Betrimex to construct a new coconut water facility at the Phong Nam Industrial Zone in the Giong Trom District of Ben Tre Province and forge ahead to crack open the US coconut market.