Saturday, December 31, 2011


A claim has recently been made by the Kochi based Coconut Board of Agriculture Ministry, GOI about the successful development of a technology for preservation of tender coconut water with the technical help of Defense Food Research Laboratory, Mysore. While it is difficult to vouch safe for the acceptability of the packed product to genuine connoisseurs of this natural beverage at this point of time based on available information, a cursory look at the process indicates that it is just a beverage based coconut water with added sugar and other functional additives. Coconut water and sugarcane juice happen to be two natural beverages notorious for their vulnerability to high temperature due to formation of Maillard reaction chemical artifacts imparting jaggery like flavor to the final product. Aseptic filling technology which is based on high temperature and very short time heat exposure can be a real option to get a product as natural as possible. Probably the jury is still out about the USP of the new technology and on may have to wait and see how far the new product will represent the original quality of coconut water.

"The Coconut Development Board (CDB) in collaboration with Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), Mysore, has developed the technology for packaging tender coconut water in pouches and aluminum cans. The process technology is now made available to entrepreneurs at a total lumpsum transfer fee of Rs 3 lakh. The processing and packaging of tender coconut water with a capacity of 10,000 tender nuts per day involves an investment ranging from Rs 35 to Rs 40 lakh covering plant, machinery and working capital with a direct employment potential of 30 personnel. The profitability after taking into account the prevailing prices of finished product works out to be around 20 per cent with a payback period of 3 years, according to CDB. Coconut water of 6-7 month stage is first filtered through pressure filters and then mixed with the desired proportion of additives plus sugar and concentrated to the appropriate level. The water is then packed in pouches / cans and retorted in an autoclave, after which it is cooled in a stream of cold water. It helps to retain the flavour of the tender coconut water in pouches or cans for three months at room temperature and for six months under refrigerated conditions".

It is not that coconut water cannot be marketed without quality deterioration as there are a few processors who have already introduced the product in its original "container', viz the natural form without breaking the sterility of the product. This product format enables the content to be held in high quality till it reaches the consumer. One of the most difficult parts of any process in manufacturing coconut water is to "extract" it from the tender coconut which is based on manual labor and lack of uniform quality in terms of sweetness and flavor makes it inevitable to standardize the composition using added water and sugar which may adversely affect the final product quality. Nonetheless such processed products can still be marketed as a beverage with mild flavor. One of the controversies surrounding coconut water concerns the claims being made by some manufacturers in countries like the US that it is highly nutritious and healthy for which there does not exist any valid scientific evidence.


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