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WE TRAVELED TO THAILAND IN SEARCH OF THE BEST COCONUT WATER IN THE WORLD. HERE’S HOW WE BROUGHT IT TO OUR SHELVES.
Coconut water is everywhere these days, driven by heath and fitness experts testifying to its restorative powers during exercise. As to its potassium content, an eight-ounce glass of coconut water is basically a clear, liquid banana. (That’s 10 times the potassium as your standard-issue sports drink.) And it’s made by nature, which means that the ingredients of coconut water, generally, are: coconut water. And that’s it! As opposed to the buckets of high fructose corn syrup you’ll find in beverages brewed in chemistry labs. Coconut water is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium and calcium, and is a better source for many amino acids than milk. (And unlike milk, you can chug coconut water after a hard spin class.) Did I mention that it’s low calorie? The only thing it can’t do, apparently, is cure baldness, but — and I am not making this up — it is apparently a great hair conditioner.
The point is, if you don’t have coconut water in your life, you are probably never going to become an Instagram fitness model, you probably have a ton of oxidants in your body and no magnesium, and your hair is probably a horrible mess but your friends won’t tell you. You probably eat bananas like some ancient Neanderthal born in the 20th century. I bet you don’t even go to spin class! But you want to do better. You might have forgotten your New Year’s resolutions, but your New Year’s resolutions have not forgotten you. Don’t worry. Rouses is here to help.
Last year, Jason Martinolich, vice president of natural, organic and specialty foods for Rouses Markets, went to Thailand in search of the best coconut water in Southeast Asia to bring back with him for our customers.
“Whenever we are looking for a product — especially if we are going to put the Rouses brand on it — we always go to the places producing the best products of that type,” he says. “You really have to be there to appreciate what the growers do, and the foods that they have and the things that they specialize in.” Italy, for example, has the best olives in the world. When Rouses Markets decided to put its label on an olive oil, they went to the source, spent weeks scouring the countryside, and only when they were satisfied that they had found an olive oil that met the store’s meticulous standards for quality and nutrition did they agree to import it. Today, you can find it on our store shelves.
Coconut water was no different. “We visited factories and farms where they are growing the coconuts and where they are manufacturing and canning and bottling the water,” says Martinolich. “We sat with the families running these places and spoke with them and learned about their businesses and how they got started.” He found a real fellowship there. “When you talk with someone in a family-operated business across multiple generations, it reminds you a lot of the story of Rouses, which after all these years is still a family-owned and family-run business.”
CROSSING AN OCEAN
The story of Rouses coconut water began with feedback from customers, who heard about the product’s benefits and wanted to get it on our shelves. So Martinolich reached out to an importer in California who had been born and raised in Thailand. He knew the country, spoke the language and agreed to travel with the Rouses team to help find the best of the best.
“Mainly what we are looking for is not only a great-tasting product, but one that is good for you as well,” he says. When it comes to coconut water, you hear a lot about added sugars and added ingredients with unpronounceable names. Rouses didn’t want that. “We were looking for 100 percent all-natural coconut water with no added sugars. So basically it is like you’re eating the fruit when you have a can of our coconut water.” Next time you are shopping, pick up a Rouses-label can and see for yourself. Look at the ingredients list. There’s only one. Coconut water.
“For us, that’s important. You can purchase a coconut water with added sugars at a better price, but we weren’t looking at going for the cheapest product. We were going for the best.”
Once they found it, the Rouses team back in the United States got to work designing a label, which was sent to Thailand where it could be printed on each item. The water is canned fresh, right there in Thailand — out of the coconut and into the can. It’s shipped to the U.S. by boat and, once it reaches our shores, is transported to our stores. The only way to get it any fresher would be to fly to Thailand yourself and to crack open a coconut and start drinking. And even that would not be any more natural than what you’ll find on Rouses shelves. (It would be a lot more work, though!)
“You can get it from Rouses at the best price anywhere in the country. You can put it against any national brand, and it will be better. It’s the best-tasting product with the best quality anywhere you will find in the United States,” he says. They also found a berry-flavored coconut water that met the Rouses standard (all natural fruit with no added sugars), and for those who want a little jolt in the morning, a coffee-flavored coconut water with caffeine.
Customers also asked for more types of sparkling waters, and Martinolich decided to put the requests together, with the result: sparkling coconut water. “We found some popular flavors that we knew would resonate well with our customers.” In addition to a regular flavor, he also brought back pineapple-, mango- and watermelon-flavored sparkling coconut water. Again, they’re all-natural, with no added sugars except for the natural sugars found in the fruits themselves.