Put down your coconut juice and reach for the ‘beverage of gods’

Since we hung the New York Times out to dry yesterday, let’s point you its way with a little more love and enthusiasm today.

This story caught out eye. How could it not? Key parts:

RATNAGIRI DISTRICT, India — When the cashew harvest starts here, the orchards clinging to the lush, wrinkled hills are blanketed by a brilliant yellow, orange and red carpet, created after farmers pluck the nut and toss its stem to the ground. There, the cashew apples, as the stems are known, quickly rot, except for a few used to brew a local spirit called feni that is popular in neighboring Goa.

This season, however, the carpet will be thinner because Pepsi is betting that the tangy, sweet juice from cashew apples can be the next coconut water or açaí juice.


Farmers here are a bit baffled by Pepsi’s interest in their cashew apples. While the cashew is a favorite nut worldwide, the so-called apple from which each nut grows is almost always left on the ground or thrown away, where it begins to ferment within 24 hours of picking. And the juice by itself, while highly nutritious, is abundant in tannins that impart an acrid taste.

“I thought it was a little strange that they wanted to buy cashew apples — but I didn’t like to question a new source of money,” said Sanjay Pandit, who together with his father, Hanumant Pandit, cultivates about 300 cashew trees in the village of Kondye.


Pepsi stumbled across the fruit in Brazil a few years ago, when Mehmood Khan, its global head of research and development, was working there to get the company’s coconut water business up and running. A local supplier took him to a cashew orchard, where he saw the colorful apples and wondered how they could be used.

The big stumbling block, Pepsi learned, to any commercial use was the fruit’s quick fermentation. “That’s a risk for us — we can’t have Tropicana with alcohol in it,” Mr. Sarma said.

To help improve the farming, collection and rapid processing of the apples, Pepsi turned to the Clinton Foundation, which had expressed interest in the company’s efforts to incorporate small farmers into its global supply chains. Small farmers supply it with chickpeas in Ethiopia and corn and sunflowers in Mexico.

The story emphasizes the point that the local farmers are seeing their incomes rise thanks to the use of a new part of their harvest — so that’s a good. I’m anticipating that at least a few of you are turned off by Pepsi’s involvement, though.

I’m not sure how else something like this would develop, though. I suppose there is the occasional small business or innovative individual who happens upon something new. But it’s probably the exception rather than the rule.

Anyway — watch for “cashew apple juice,” coming to a Whole Foods near you soon.

Posted by Steve

The coconut water wars

Yes, we’re going a little New York Times heavy these past few days. But here’s another story that seems right up the yoga/Ashtanga alley — the selling of coconut water:

The battle for this market, worth $400 million a year and growing, now involves big players like Pepsi and Coke. But in the beginning, it looked more like a street fight between two guys. One was then a 29-year-old college dropout who rolled to Manhattan bodegas at night, on in-line skates, carrying samples in a backpack. The other was a former Peace Corps volunteer, driving a beat-up Econoline Ford van and fighting for the same turf.

Michael Kirban, who with a buddy founded Vita Coco, and Mark Rampolla, who founded its archrival Zico, happened to start selling nearly identical brands, in the same neighborhoods of New York City, at almost the same time — a week or two apart, in late 2004.

Those in the fray called it the coconut water wars. Each side quickly bulked up with sales teams and tried to win over Manhattan, one grocery store and yoga studio at a time.

It’s a far cry from the stalls all over India selling hacked-open-in-front-of-you coconuts.

Posted by Steve