Life & Style

Sweeter than before

Nuts over the coconut Antony S. Pathadan, the MD of NaturUp Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Nuts over the coconut Antony S. Pathadan, the MD of NaturUp Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

The popular tender coconut water gets an easy-to-make powder version

Tender coconut water in a sachet? Why not if you can have tender coconut ice cream out of a plastic cup and buy coconut milk in a packet? This one comes closest to the real deal, with no added preservatives or flavour or colour. Antony S. Pathadan, MD of NaturUp, says this tender coconut water powder mix came to be after several sessions of brainstorming, research and leg work with his business partners and cousins Nilin Babu, Nileena Santin and her husband Shantin Joy.

The former IT entrepreneur, who completed his computer science engineering from Rajagiri College of Engineering, sensed a business opportunity when he was visiting a hospital and found a board which said “no coconuts allowed on the premises”. “That got me thinking. Tender coconut water was prescribed for recovering cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and yet, coconuts were not allowed because of the practical difficulties involving in the waste they would generate. Why not do something with tender coconut water, I thought.”

Antony and his cousins discussed the idea and read up on coconut water, while drawing up a business plan. As the plan took shape, presentation was the next challenge. “We had to decide whether we would sell it as water. We visited quite a few manufacturing plants throughout India, to work out a feasible methodology and finally arrived at the powdered form,” Antony says. “Finally, we arrived at a spray-drying technology and found it to be most effective.”

The powder is manufactured at a plant in Puducherry, in association with Antony’s friend Anil. Spray-drying is the process by which the liquid is heated to remove moisture and produce a stable powder. This way, the powder would have a longer shelf life. NaturUp has a shelf life of a year if unopened. When opened, it would have to be consumed within six hours, Antony says.

Apart from the sucrose added, no other preservative finds its way into NaturUp, Antony says. “The sucrose is added only because a little bit of the sweetness is lost when the tender coconut water is spray-dried.” The coconuts are sourced from Palakkad, Coimbatore and Pollachi. At the source, just the coconut water is taken by NaturUp, while the pulp is given to ice-cream manufacturers, hence saving costs of storing and processing whole coconut shells and eliminating problems of waste management.

Launched in July 2016, Antony and team met with slow, but sure success. Today, they sell over two tonnes a month. NaturUp is currently sold in small sachets for Rs. 15, as 10-sachet packs and 300 gm boxes for caterers and large-scale users. The sales figures are promising on online retail portals such as Amazon as well. Though coconut-based products are available internationally, with a few originating from Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka, NaturUp is different in that the taste of the coconut water in South India is better, says Antony. “For sure, it is sweeter.”

The powder, which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), is being sold in the US and a few countries in Europe. They are looking at exploring more international markets as well. In Kerala, NaturUp is available in select supermarkets and bakeries in Thiruvnananthapuram, Kochi and Thrissur. It would expand to other cities as well. Besides individual customers, NaturUp has already found patrons among caterers and dessert specialists. “The idea is to take it to restaurants, cafes, and hospitals as well. We are already selling it to them, but we want to reach out to more,” Antony says.

NaturUp has its administrative office in Chalakkudy. The company has plans to diversify into other products such as coconut milk-based beverages, preservative-free fruits mocktails and syrups as well.

Antony can be contacted at antony@naturupproducts.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 4:02:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/Sweeter-than-before/article17055090.ece

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