If you told me to give up dairy tomorrow, there’d be claw marks on the milk carton when you pried it from my fingers.
If, on the other hand, you told me there was a plant-based dairy alternative that tasted more “dairy” and less “alternative,” I’d be on board in a second.
That’s tough to find, though, which may be one reason The Coconut Collaborative is gaining a steady following worldwide.
Founded in 2014 and based in London, the company makes dairy-free coconut yogurts and desserts. The idea behind The Coconut Collaborative’s mission that a plant-based dairy alternative shouldn’t have to taste bland in order to be healthy. Or to put it the way the company’s tagline does, The Coconut Collaborative’s products are “free from dairy but not from temptation.”
Clearly, identical twins Edward and James Averdieck (the latter of UK dessert business Gü), the masterminds behind the brand, aren’t alone in that thought. Their operation has expanded rapidly since 2014, first in its native Britain then across European markets including France and Germany. And just recently the products arrived stateside, where they’re available in the the New York Metro area, New Jersey, parts of Virginia, and a few other states.
“We love dairy yogurts and that’s what we benchmark against,” Edward Averdieck recently said. “With coconut you can make a plant-based yogurt taste as good or better than a dairy equivalent. We absolutely see this category just exploding if you can make the products taste good.”
It’s an approach that’s slightly different from a lot of dairy alternatives on the market, whose labels use rhetoric like “vegan” or “dairy-free” but don’t put a lot of emphasis on taste. The Averdieck brothers, on the other hand, have been very vocal about their desire to deliver on taste as much as on health benefits.
That’s a significant point in markets like the U.S., where coconut-based dairy alternative have come under heat in the past for their high amount of saturated fat, low levels of protein, and, in many cases, added sugars.
Coconut Collaborative says its products have about half the sugar of big-brand alternatives: roughly 5 to 7 grams instead of 12 to 24. (Admittedly, though, the products are still pretty high in saturated fat and low in protein, according to the ingredient labels).
The company also makes it a point to give back through its work planting coconut trees with the Pur Project in Southeast Asia. They give seedlings to farmers in the Philippines and North Bali. Farmers plant them, and, once the trees are grown, sell the produce at markets or use it to feed their families and livestock.
But does all that give the company a viable shot in the U.S. market? I went around the block earlier today and bought some of Coconut Collective’s Mango & Passonfruit cups and was pleasantly surprised to find it actually tasted quite a bit like real yogurt. And with flavor beating out both health benefits and ingredient sources in a recent survey on why consumers choose plant-based dairy, it’s looking more and more like the Averdieck brothers’ betting on taste could win the company a serious following here very soon.