Growing consumer interest in coconut water as a refreshing beverage and as a sports drink, has broadened its market opportunities. This, in turn, necessitated a more convenient product format and led to the development of technologies for the preservation and sale of bottled coconut water.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, has designed a guide for small and micro entrepreneurs to produce a product that can have a shelf life of up to three weeks.
Bottling of coconut water not only reduces the cost of bulk freighting and transportation of immature coconuts over long distances, but it also enhances the shelf life, adds value and generates income and employment for small farmers and processors.
Compositionally, coconut water is relatively high in potassium and low in sodium. Its major constituents are sugars which range in concentration from 1.4% to 5% depending on the variety and the maturity stage of the nut. Coconut water also contains small quantities of protein and fat as well as amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
The commercial production of canned coconut water has traditionally employed a high-temperature/short-time preservation process. This product has, however, only limited consumer acceptance due to distortion of flavour, due to the high temperatures applied in the process.
Cold preservation is, therefore, the method of choice for extending shelf life. It essentially involves collection of the coconut water, filtration and bottling under hygienic conditions.
This guide, Good practice for the small-scale production of bottled coconut water, describes a "middle level" of cold preservation technology, for producing coconut water with a shelf life of at least ten days under refrigerated conditions. The technology consists of a single coarse filtration step and chilling of the product.
The guide emphasizes quality and safety aspects and recommends good practices for every step of the process, from the selection of the nuts right through to the monitoring of retail outlets to ensure that product is stored at the correct temperature (of not exceeding 4°C).
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