Grace launches virgin coconut oil
Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Local conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited indicated yesterday that it has spent just under $5 million in research costs alone to bring a new product, Virgin Coconut Oil, to market.
Touting its health benefits, Andrew Messado, group comptroller at Grace-Kennedy, said that he expected high take-up in a local market where almost all cooking oils used are vegetable-based.
"The market potential for the product is significant. Currently, 99 per cent of the cooking oil market in Jamaica is vegetable-based (soy or corn), so there is a huge upside," he told Wednesday Business.
"The research cost was just under $5 million," said Messado, adding that "several other elements would go into bringing the product to market. However, we are not able to disclose the numbers. It was substantial and multiple times the standalone research costs."
Messado declined to name the entity which now manufactures the product, only stating that the farm is owned by a third party who has a large property producing coconuts. "Grace Virgin Coconut Oil is manufactured at a coconut farm in Morant Bay, St Thomas from 100 per cent Jamaican coconuts," he said.
He said that there are there are two main types of coconut oil suitable for cooking and baking - virgin and refined.
Messado explained that virgin or cold pressed coconut oil is of premium quality, made from fresh coconuts and based on the unique processing method that does not use high temperatures or chemicals and uses fresh coconuts.
"The processing technique is known as cold pressing, and it preserves the natural goodness of fresh coconuts. Right after the fresh coconuts are harvested, they are opened and grated. The grated coconut is then dehydrated at low temperatures which dry the flakes. The dry flakes are then mechanically pressed. It results in a product with a rich coconut taste and aroma," Messado said.
He noted that the virgin oil is made without additives or preservatives, adding that it is all natural and made from only 100 per cent virgin, cold pressed coconut. "It is unrefined, not bleached and not deodorised. It contains no cholesterol or trans fat."
On the other hand, Messado said refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat that is often chemically bleached and deodorised.
Messado said the virgin oil is ideal for use in place of butter, margarine, shortening or other oils used for baking or sauteing and is an "excellent plant-based replacement for vegans and strict vegeta-rians." Other suggested uses, he said, are as oil for salad dressings, vinaigrettes and sauces and as a skin, hair and nail moisturiser.
Messado did not say which export markets, if any, were being targeted for the new product.