Canary Wharf in London on a Thursday lunchtime, and platoons of well-groomed office workers descend into a warren of underground malls in search of lunch: something healthy, natural and delicious – a little edible holiday from urban desk life. All the big chains are here to tempt the 100,000 ravenous workers, who needn’t step outside all day: from Eat, Leon and Pret a Manger to Wagamama, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. The longest queue is in the vast Waitrose, snaking past fridge after fridge of hermetically sealed, ready-to-eat food.
Step a little closer and look at that food, and a trend quickly emerges: at Pret a Manger, you can wash your avocado wrap down with “naturally rehydrating” coconut water, then grab a pot of dairy-free coconut yoghurt with mango for afters. You might have already had the coconut porridge for breakfast, and if that wasn’t coconutty enough for you, the top four items on the “Barista Specials” board are – drum roll – coconut-milk coffees. At Eat, it’s a mango-and-coconut-milk chia pot; at the Virgin Active cafe, a coconut granola with “pina colada” topping. Waitrose has more than 145 coconut-containing products (although, yes, that does include some toiletries), Morrisons sells 213 and Tesco no fewer than 394.
In the UK, coconut water – an acquired taste – was predicted as a “bizarre” trend back in 2010. Yet, seven years later, the market for all things coconut is still expanding. April saw Pret a Manger report record profits – and cite coconut as its most popular new ingredient. Coconut has, of course, been a much-loved staple of cuisines around the world since time immemorial, but, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), global demand is growing at 10% a year. The global market for coconut water hit $2.2bn in 2016.
High-fat oil and low-paid farmers: the cost of our coconut craze
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