Observations from Expo West, Other Thoughts

What a week from Expo West! This was our third year attending (first two years as Pancake Organics), but our first year as an exhibitor. The crowds have grown each year, as have the number of companies that come to showcase their natural products. 

As we have observed since attending our first show in 2015, coconuts are a popular ingredient and stand alone product at the show. Out of the thousands of exhibitors, by my count I saw a couple hundred companies that were using some kind of coconut ingredient, in both food and cosmetics. Macaroons, lotions, soaps, cookies, granola bars, power bars, cakes, breads, and even jerky. 

At the show we were also reminded of the importance of transparency and sustainability in natural product sector.  As a buyer in the organic coconut world, you become familiar with traders who source ingredients from wherever they can find them. They will guarantee quantity but unfortunately they might not even know where the product is coming from. That obviously raises a huge concern from a quality standpoint. 

But this phenomenon is not just limited to so-called "traders". Even very large, established coconut companies are guilty of this as well. A large ingredient company in Indonesia was recently found to have supplied a large amount of organic coconut sugar, cut with cane sugar, to a chocolate maker in Europe. Even in the United States, a well known coconut water company was found to have mislabeled it's so-called "100% raw" coconut water, and was forced to pay a million dollar fine for misleading consumers. 

But perhaps the most interesting story I heard was about the destructive forces of the coconut rhinoceros beetle found among Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Guam, and other coconut producing countries. According to the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service, the [rhino beetle] attacks coconut palms by boring into the crowns or tops of the tree where it damages growing tissue and feeds on tree sap. The damage can significantly reduce coconut production and kill the tree. 

With an aging population, as well as invasive pests that threaten to kill coconut trees, sustainability and efforts to conserve coconut producing land is now more important than ever. Quarantines, traps, pesticides, and a host of other eradication methods are being tested to combat and control these location beetle populations, but there is more work to be done to effectively control these invasive pests. 

With that, I'll sign out. Find us here for more news on Expo West, and look forward to our new monthly newsletter with important market information on the Southeast Asian coconut market!


Frederic Zhang