Healthy and sustainable: coconut and its delicious variations in Brazilian sweets
Cocada, chocolate candy with coconut, caramel with coconut flakes, and many others are already winning the shelves as well as the palate of the international market.
As one of the main raw materials in the industry, coconut can be found in a number of candy varieties, chocolates, chewing gums and different forms of ‘cocada’- a traditional Brazilian sweet. Coconut production is concentrated mainly in the north and northeast of Brazil (85%) and it takes five years until the fruit is ripe enough to be picked by the coconut pickers, who are the men that work exclusively in the harvesting stage of coconut production.
More than just a tasty fruit, coconut is healthy, rich in proteins, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates and mineral salts (calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron), and it is produced within sustainability parameters, remembering that 70% of coconut farms have on average 17 hectares.
According to Laura Alonso, nutritionist and director of the São Paulo Nutrition Association (APANUTRI), the entire coconut can be used, from the water to the pulp, as in the case of sweet products. "Coconut pulp has an anti-inflammatory effect as well as being a good source of fiber, assisting the function of the intestine. Attention should however be given to the amount consumed, as it is a high energy source: every 100g has approximately 370 kcal", explains Laura.
There are two basic varieties of coconut in Brazil: the "dwarf" coconut, which has an estimated production of 1.5 billion fruits per year and is mostly used for the consumption of coconut water; and also the "giant" coconut, with an estimated production of 500 million units per year, being used in the production of chocolates, candy and filled caramels, for example.
In Brazil, especially the North and Northeast, there are a significant amount of small agriculturalists who utilize grouped waste from other plant species, cultivated in order to facilitate the nutrition of the coconut plantations. "In addition to animal and agricultural waste, the leguminous plants, for example, besides the coconut harvest, are used for nitrogen fixation, which therefore substantially minimizes the use of chemical products. Through agricultural practices such as this, we cultivate the fruit in a healthy and sustainable way", explains Francisco de Paula Domingues Porto, President of SINDICOCO (National Syndicate of Brazilian Coconut Producers).
After being harvested from these small producers (or even from the large ones), the coconuts arrive at the factory and undergo a series of processes before the production of a tasty variety of sweets commences, which not only satisfies Brazilian tastes, but also that of consumers in the international market.
Cocada, for example, is a favorite among importers from Latin America and Europe. "The Brazilian cocada differentiates itself through the variations available. It’s possible to find many different versions of it, with fruit, chocolate and peanuts. The producer Santa Helena, for example, markets products such as white cocada and white cocada with peanuts, both without added sugar, and with packaging adapted for the international market, having three different languages", comments Daniela Zanin, Product Manager at Santa Helena, one of the main Brazilian sweet companies that produces an average of 50 tons/month of this particular sweet.
Another tasty attraction is the chocolate covered candy, filled with coconut. The Garoto brand, one of the main Brazilian chocolate producers, commercializes the product ‘It Coco’, a sales success and a Brazilian passion that mixes two of the public’s much-loved flavors: the creamy texture of the traditional Garoto chocolate and the flavor of coconut, blended in a light chocolate that can be eaten at various times of the day.
In addition to this candy there are a number of other sweets containing coconut, such as the chocolate caramel filled with coconut caramel, and the half milk and half coconut caramel. Both are produced by Embaré, which introduced them to the American market in 2013 and to the Canadian and Korean markets in 2014. The caramels are produced with milk from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, cacao from the state of Bahia and coconut from the state of Alagoas. Within its composition, the coconut flakes give a special touch to the product.
"Between 2013 and 2014, products with coconut represented 5% of our sales. The weight of the product increases significantly if we consider that from over 30 flavors available, one flavor, the traditional milk caramel represents 40% of the volume exported. We expect to see an increase in the volume of coconut exportation with greater intensity in 2016, when we will have the ISO22000 certification (Food Safety), which will be the gateway to large North American and Asian chains and club stores", comments Felipe Antunes, International Sales Supervisor at Embaré.