Why the UK’s coconut oil industry is heating up

Posted: 22 February 2016 | | 1 comment

The rise in popularity of cold pressed coconut oil has been one of the UK food industry’s great recent success stories. However this food oil, and the manufacturing challenges it presents, are unlike any other.

Why the UK’s coconut oil industry is heating up

According to Kantar data from September 2015, sales of coconut oil more than tripled last year, up from £4.4m to £13m, after being practically unheard of outside of health food shops just a few years ago.

From our own perspective, its growing popularity has clearly been good news. We went from zero to almost one million units in one year in 2015, thanks to new contracts supplying a combination of big brands and white labelled alternatives.

We’re on track to hit five million units a year by 2017, but that growth’s not been without its difficulties. As a handleable food oil, cold pressed coconut oil was unlike anything we’d ever worked with, and required a whole new technical approach to be devised.

Crazy about coconut oil

Firstly, to lay out what we were working with, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat, which means in our cold UK climate it’s almost always solid. In its grown climate in the Philippines and Singapore it’s always liquid though, and the phase change between solid and liquid happens at 24-26°C, an unusually tight band of transition for any substance.

It’s an insulator in its own right, acting just like a fat does inside the body. Therefore heating it in the wrong way won’t give consistent melting, but will only heat the outside, not the middle.

As a saturated fat it’s a relatively stable product, but because it exists in a semi-solid state in the UK, it is prone to more numerous phase changes than other oils.

And lastly the fact that it is cold pressed coconut oil means that the quality was that much higher due to the lower pressing temperatures involved in the early stages. This meant that the finished product we were delivering had to be that much better quality also…

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