Brits are falling out of love with coconut oil - with sales plummeting by £4.4m amid growing doubts over its health credentials.
Spend on coconut oil was down 17% to £21.5m as volumes fell 16.7% last year, despite a 19p drop in the average price per litre [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 27 January 2019]. Own label led the decline in volume sales (-18%), but branded volumes were also significantly lower (-15.8%).
It follows a 2017 advisory from the American Heart Association, which recommended against eating coconut oil after a scientific study found it contained 82% satfat and raised LDL “bad” cholesterol as much as butter, beef fat or palm oil. Further doubts were cast last year, when Harvard professor Karin Michels branded it “pure poison” during a lecture at the University of Freiburg..
Concerns over satfat had led to some “uncertainly among consumers about the benefits of coconut oil” admitted Maria Dawson, commercial director at Clearspring. However, she claimed the brand continued to enjoy “gradual growth” for its organic, unrefined and raw coconut oil.
“We see demand coming not only from consumers opting to use it for cooking, but also a sizable and growing shopper using it for cosmetic, hair and beauty purposes.”
Vita Coco MD Tim Rees said coconut oil brands had lost shelf space “over the past couple of years” as retailers ramped up their own label offers.
“This has probably caused a reduction in marketing activities from some brands as they have lost volume.”
Vita Coco remained “the premium growth brand in the category, and as such has continued to invest in communicating usage benefits and occasions of cooking with coconut oil” he added. “Outside of the cooking aisle, we are also experiencing rapid growth in the beauty categories given the trend for 100% natural beauty products.”
Rosie Hayward, co-founder of The Groovy Food Company, insisted coconut oil had “multiple benefits, including the fact that it contains natural lauric acid, which has been proven to provide an immediate source of energy, rather than being stored as fat”.