Consumer Group: Coconut Waters Fall Short on Electrolyte Claims

A review of the electrolyte content of the three leading coconut water brands, ZICO, O.N.E., and Vita Coco by the consumer group ConsumerLab.com found that samples of both Vita Coco and O.N.E. fell short with regard to two key hydrating elements on their nutrition panel.

Coconut water has gained in popularity because of its natural hydrating functionality as well as its lighter taste profile and clever marketing; the group began to examine the brands because of its growth and functional claims, according to ConsumerLab.com’s president, Dr. Tod Cooperman, who has also examined products like 5-Hour Energy in the past.

The use of coconut water as a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade has become increasingly important in recent months. While all three brands have had healthy auras, initially ZICO was most closely focused on the athletic arena. Both Vita Coco and O.N.E. have begun marketing more directly to athletes over the summer, however. The electrolyte content is only one element of hydration, of course, but it has become a key marketing component for all three brands.

“Because they are mostly water, all coconut waters can provide hydration, but those that provide more sodium, at least 110 mg of sodium per cup, will be the best choice for replenishing electrolytes,” says Dr. Cooperman.

Of the three, only ZICO came matched its stated content for key electrolytes sodium (160 mg), potassium (569 mg), and magnesium (35 mg), as well as sugar (12 g). ConsumerLab.com tested ZICO’s bottled variant, which is made from concentrate, and also is approximately 20 percent larger.

Both O.N.E. and Vita Coco fell short on their nutritional information when it came to sodium and magnesium, according to ConsumerLab.com, with one of the companies showing that contained only 18 percent of its claimed amount of sodium. Both O.N.E. and Vita Coco hit their claimed amounts for potassium and sugar.

For his part, ZICO founder Mark Rampolla said that one of his company’s key concerns has been locating suppliers that can meet his company’s specifications.

“We’ve worked very hard with our suppliers to make sure our bottled Zico  can maintain great and consistent taste and nutritional profiles,”  he said.

Vita Coco spokesman Arthur Gallego told Health.com that the difference between the label claims and the tested results may have had to do with consistency issues in coconut batches, as the company sources its products in both Brazil and Southeast Asia. He also told the network that the results weren’t typical of Vita Coco’s average nutritional content.

But consistency has become an issue for the companies, particularly given the battle for supply that has accompanied the category’s growth. All three brands tested have been forced to add coconuts from Thailand, Indonesia, and other countries to replace or supplement their supply of Brazilian coconuts.

“The product is produced by PepsiCo in Brazil under very strict quality control,” said O.N.E. founder Rodrigo Veloso. PepsiCo is a majority owner of O.N.E. and also owns Amococo, the world’s largest coconut water company.

Rampolla said that his company also makes a point of declaring its nutritional information on the low end of the scale to meet testing requirements.

“We’ve been conservative about what we claim,” Rampolla said.