Market trends

Plantain flour could fuel grain-free movement in bakery, says The Real Coconut

By Douglas Yu contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Real Coconut is expected to reach $5m in sales this year. Pic: The Real Coconut
The Real Coconut is expected to reach $5m in sales this year. Pic: The Real Coconut
Grain-free snacks startup The Real Coconut hopes to bring plantain flour to the mainstream consumer through its new cookies.

The products, which come in chocolate chip, hemp raisin and ginger molasses flavors, will be available in Whole Foods as well as several independent stores across the US starting June 2018.

The Real Coconut's founder Daniella Hunter says people love the gluten-free and grain-free concept.

The cookie business is an extension of Daniella Hunter’s hotel and restaurant businesses situated in Tulum, Mexico.

From Tortilla chips to baked goods

Hunter, who is originally from the UK, told BakeryandSnacks, “When I moved to Mexico [three years ago], I was frustrated not to find tortillas made without corn flour, so I started experimenting coconut flour and served them on our restaurant menu.”

“People loved the gluten-free and grain-free concept,”​ said Hunter.

As The Real Coconut restaurant continued exploring new ingredients for its customers, Hunter turned her attention to plantains, which are used as a base for many of their existing food items.

“I thought we could use them for our fresh pancake mix instead of coconut or cassava flours,”​ she said.

“There are many plantain flour suppliers in Mexico already, but the flour has never been used to make commercial baked products… we managed to secure partnerships with some of them for our cakes and cookies.”

The Real Coconut currently manufactures all its packaged goods just outside Los Angeles, California, according to Hunter.

Plantain flour in the grain-free movement

Hunter noted that, similar to the items on her restaurant’s menu, The Real Coconut’s commercial line puts an emphasis on grain-free as consumers are eating less processed food.

“All the flours that we use are grain-free,”​ she said. “Plantain flour, in particular, is important to the grain-free movement because it is also easier to digest, and has high level of resistant starch (which is rich in prebiotics) compared to other alternative flours.”

According to Mintel, grain-free is starting to emerge as the next generation of gluten-free, noting there has been a 134% increase in the launch of bakery products with non-grain flours since 2010.

On the sustainability side, plantains grow abundantly in countries such as Ecuador, Peru and Nigeria, thus providing an opportunity for small farmers wanting to diversify their income, Hunter added.

$5m sales target

Hunter said the business is well on track to reach $5m in sales in 2018, growing 150% in revenue monthly between January and April this year. The Real Coconut posted a 400% sales increase in Q1 2018 compared to last year.

The company is also extending its footprint and will also be available in 130 Safeway stores across Northern California this summer. Its products are expected to be available in 2,000 retailers by the end of this year.

“For the upcoming Expo East and Expo West, we’re adding some superfoods to our tortilla chips range including anti-inflammatory and antioxidants tortilla chips, as well as a coconut cheese,”​ said Hunter.

“We’re also looking to produce bread made with plantain flour because of the consumer demand,” ​she added.

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