The Big Coconut Water Lie

by Jennifer Fugo on August 9, 2012

In the past five years, the coconut water industry has exploded and found it’s way into the hands of many people. I doubt you can walk into a studio, let alone a yoga class or even your local CrossFit box, without seeing a bottle of coconut water being sold or next to someone’s gear. It thus seems safe to say that many communities have been infiltrated by a big and friendly marketing machine that wants our wellness-minded dollars to keep us hydrated after a sweaty class.

It’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the support that coconut water companies have given to events and studios, but that support is really part of a detailed marketing plan intended on conquering the world of yoga and wellness. I mean, come on… it’s all-natural, super-hydrating sweet goodness, right?!?!

Well, kind of. And that’s where many of the coconut water companies got into trouble because they made claims that coconut water was better for you than it really is and the electrolytes touted by Vitacoco and O.N.E. don’t actually match what’s in that non-recyclable landfill-bound container you’re gulping. (Yes, I know that some communities do recycle them now, but it’s still quite uncommon.)

So did you buy a sweet lie?

Yep. We all did—including myself. I wrote about the nutritious value of coconut water on my own website and had one particular company sponsor several events that I hosted. I believed what they wrote on their nutritional label as well as much of their marketing because I know from having lived in a tropical place that coconut water straight from the coconut can do a body a lot of good.

But at the end of the day, Vitacoco, Zico and O.N.E. all got hit with class-action lawsuits which are in various stages of being resolved. And one thing is clear, the claims which the yoga community has bought into about their products aren’t entirely true and here’s the lab data which sparked all of the problems.

(To view the class action lawsuit against Vitacoco, visit HERE.)

The greater dilemma…

For me, the problem that’s been underscored by these class-action lawsuits is greater than some nutritional numbers being off and a few misleading lines of text. I’m no stranger to concepts like the ‘business of yoga’ and synergistic partnerships, but there are a growing number of companies that are throwing lots of money and product at yoga teachers, fitness experts and local health leaders. The hope is that these ‘ambassadors’ will pave their way to the yoga and fitness world and ultimately convert their following into increased revenue.

As purveyors of things good for health, I know that folks look up to people who we see as leaders and on some level, unconscious or conscious, probably seek to emulate their choices. Though I’m sure that these people (including myself) didn’t know of the mis-information presented by the coconut water companies, we may not have done enough to really question if everything really was as it seemed to be before promoting these products to people who appreciate and want our opinions.

What now?

I’m not saying to stop buying coconut water and head on over to the Gatorade aisle. That would just be crazy! But let’s stop towing the coconut water company lines by ‘staying hydrated’ with coconut water.

Honestly, the products aren’t as fresh as real coconut water since every single company is required to pasteurized their product before it can enter the US to make sure that there aren’t any dangerous living organisms living inside the water. Thus, it’s not raw for all those who care about eating that way.

And most people are drinking way too much of it, whether as their favorite beverage of choice or their go-to hydrating option post-practice, thus far exceeding the serving size on the container with hefty shots of sugar into their bodies. Just because it’s natural doesn’t excuse over indulgence, my friends.

Personally, I’ve pulled way back on buying coconut water. It’s one of those occasional treats as I’ve been reminded just how good simple pure water is for keeping me hydrated. And should I really need a boost of electrolytes, that’s what sea salt is good for!

Will you still consume coconut water?  What’s your feelings now considering the lawsuits?

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