Philippines’ coconut product makers have affirmed Americans sustain love for tropically-grown coconut and its products, a trade exposition in Maryland late in September that instantly generated $6 million sales showed.
The United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (UCAP) has assured farmers and makers of virgin coconut oil and other processed coconut—not only here but among Asian Pacific producers—that the US market continue to rave over coconut and its health benefits.
“America still loves our coconuts,” said UCAP Chairman Dean A. Lao Jr. in a Cocohouse briefing on the Maryland East Expo Roadshow said.
The trade mission, supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Coconut Authority, Philippine Embassy and attaches in the US, also went throughout Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver to affirm scientifically-evident health benefits of coconut.
While there has been misinformation on coconut oil apparently arising from competitor products (soybean oil), UCAP said the sentiment of the US consumer market is to defend coconut products.
Scientific studies have linked medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) content in coconut oil to less incidence of cardiovascular disease in studied populations. MCFA has also widely recognized now as the major ingredient in energy-boosting ketogenic diet.
Yvonne T. Agustin, UCAP executive director, said January to June 2017 export was at $1.132 billion, nearly double the $636 million export for all products in the same period of 2016.
The private-public sector trade group will carry out more programs to attest to authorities scientific proof of coconut oil’s nutritional benefits.
Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) Scientific Advisory Committee-Health chairman, said APCC has communicated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regarding its position against a presidential advisory issued by the American Heart Association that branded coconut oil as a saturated fat and classified it as the same as any animal fat – which it is not.
“FAO agreed to a technical meeting in a scientific conference among experts in 2018,” said Dayrit.
FAO is also a United Nations organization. The APCC’s communication with FAO will be important as APCC also deals with WHO (World Health Organization), also a UN agency.
As the Philippines thrives in exporting virgin coconut oil and semi-processed coconut products in bulk, Lao said it is pertinent for Philippines to intensively invest in product research. Thailand has led Southeast Asian countries in coconut product innovation.
“Thais invest heavily in consumer products,” he said.
In the future, the Philippines’ coconut trade mission should consist of blue chip companies –large companies in the likes of Franklin Baker, Celebes Coconut Corp., Century Pacific Agricultural Ventures, that shall have invested in knowing what the consumer market wants and in developing such products.
“We are good in shipping in bulk. (But) consumer products bring higher value,” he said.
Packaging, marketing, and distribution strategies are important such that some coconut products get more sales through branding, private labelling, and online (internet marketing) distribution.
Some products displayed in the market that Philippines should be inspired by include privately labelled “Simple Truth” of Kroger, Pure Brazilian Coconut Water, Nutiva high value skin food and coconut buttery oil, and a tortilla chips from coconut flour.
Other coconut product innovations are on personal care, petroleum-free consumer products, low-sugar beverage, probiotic-low carbohydrate products, refrigerated coconut in its entire nut with trimmed husk, marshmallow with coconut, coconut granola, virgin coconut oil in its buttery form for cooking or baking, cooking spray coconut oil, and coconut milk creamer.
“Trends point to everything coconut. There’s strong preference for natural and organic, free from GMO, gluten, sugar, palm, and with focus on CSR (corporate social responsibility), fair trade, and sustainability,” he said.
Some smaller companies just come up with brands for their coconut products and market them online such as through Amazon.
“You can put your product online for as long as you have FDA (Food and Drug Administration certification). Some people are not stopped by not having the capex (capital) but just have a brand and market the brand,” Lao said.
The public-private trade group also met with Filipino scientists from Philippine American Academy of Science & Engineering that may explore scientific studies on coconut in the future.
UCAP also oriented the Coconut Coalition, a group of major distributors of coconut products in the US, on its position on false accusation of the American Heart Association against all saturated fats as being linked to cardiovascular diseases as top cause of death in the US.
“The Coalition wants us to be alert on our senses, and we are. We feel the sentiment that consumers go to the defense of coconut. But it’s not something we should take for granted,” he said.
UCAP noted coconut products are immediately recovering from a temporary 25% drop in coconut products sales as a result of the misinformation.
The group also met with naturopathic doctor Bruce Fife who has authored books on heatlh benefits of coconut. End (Growth Publishing for UCAP).
For any questions or interview requests, please contact 0929-715-8669, 0917-102-6734 (Growth Publishing for United Coconut Associations of the Philippines)