Press Release 00/51
COCONUT WATER AS ENERGY DRINK FOR JOGGERS AND ATHLETES - FIRST PATENT GRANTED TO UN FOOD AGENCY
Rome, 14 September - Coconut water should be marketed as a natural energy drink for joggers and athletes, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement issued today. FAO has applied for a patent on a new technology that would allow manufacturers to bottle coconut water that is biologically pure, tasty and full of the salts, sugars and vitamins demanded by athletes. Before FAO developed the new technology, coconut water's nutritional characteristics could not be preserved.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has granted a patent to FAO on the new technology. It is the first patent ever given to a UN agency. Similar requests in Canada and Japan are pending.
"The new technology holds tremendous promise for tropical countries. Countries that process or export coconuts and small farmers who grow them will be the main beneficiaries of the newly patented technology. FAO is making the patented process available to all interested companies," said Morton Satin, Chief of FAO's Agricultural Industries and Post-harvest Management Service. "Companies in the beverage industry have already shown interest."
Today, most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical coastal areas. Once exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its nutritional characteristics, and begins to ferment, according to FAO. But the production of coconut beverages, particularly as a by-product of processing operations, such as coconut cream processing and coconut desiccation, has long interested food manufacturers.
Present processing has a drawback. Most commercial production today is carried out using high-temperature and short-time pasteurization (the same technology used in UHT long-life milk). But thermal processing eliminates not only the risk of bacteria, but also some of coconut water's nutrients and almost all of its delicate flavour. This severely limits the product's marketability.
"Coconut water had a future only if we could invent a new cold sterilization process that retained its flavour and all its nutritional characteristics," Satin, said. "The answer was microfiltration technology: you filter the water through a medium, such as porcelain or a polyacrylic gel. The filter retains all microorganisms and spores and renders the permeate commercially sterile." Satin's previous food inventions include high-fibre white bread and wheatless bread.
"A young coconut between six and nine months old contains about 750 ml of water. It's a natural isotonic beverage, with the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood. It's the fluid of life, so to speak," Satin said.
The new process was conceived and tested on four coconut varieties with the help of a consulting Italian food technologist, Giuseppe Amoriggi. They also processed coconut water with added sucrose and L-absorbic acid, to approximate the vitamin and energy content of major sports drinks. When the inventors noticed some discoloration in the water of one coconut variety - albeit an "attractive pink" - they added lime juice to retain its original transparency. Finally, they called in a panel of tasters, who could detect no difference between fresh coconut water and what came out the other end of the laboratory.
Satin sees coconut water as a natural contender in the world's $1 billion sports drink market. "What could be better than a natural beverage product with the delicate aroma, taste, drinking characteristics and nutritional value of pure, fresh, tender coconut water, plus all the functional characteristics required of a sports drink?" he said.
For more information please contact Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@fao.org