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Those innovative products from coconut


Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

Additional Photo: DOST

Coconut (scientific name: Cocos nucifera) is a crop with a thousand products.

Now, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has just launched a new product from the “tree of life.” It’s called bukolyte, a powdered coconut juice drink developed by its Davao regional office’s food innovation facility.

Bukolyte, launched last November 24, 2021, at the SM City Davao in Ecoland, was one of the various innovative food products developed from the Food Processing Innovation Center-Davao (FPIC-Davao).

The FPIC-Davao is a one-stop-shop food research and development hub for local food processors, students, food technologies, and researchers who can collaborate and co-create value-adding food products. It is a collaborative project by the DOST XI, Philippine Women’s College Davao, Department of Trade and Industry XI, and the Food Processors Association of Davao (FPAD), Inc.

The powdered juice drink is developed using the FPIC’s spray-drying technology that converts liquid extracts into powder while preserving its important nutrients. The juice drink is a healthy alternative to other commercially available fruit juices as it has no artificial flavoring and preservatives added.

“Bukolyte can treat dehydration caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea, heavy sweating due to exercise and heat, and hangovers,” the DOST said in a press statement.

Just like coconut water – or buko juice – bukolyte is also loaded with nutrients and minerals and contains four electrolytes, namely potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium, that are known to support rapid hydration to the body.

Since bukolyte is just the powdered form of coconut water, let’s talk more about it. American nutritionist Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, calls coconut water a “perfectly good option” for people who want to stay hydrated.

“Coconut water is considered a sports drink because it contains many nutrients lost in physical exertion and sweating,” Susan Ferrandino points out in an article published in Livestrong.com. “It is marketed as an isotonic beverage, which means that concentration levels of nutrients are the same as in human blood. As a result, coconut water is absorbed readily into the body and can prevent dehydration after a workout.”

Coconut water is a good source of electrolyte potassium and provides 600 milligrams per one-cup serving. This is the reason why it’s good for those engaged in sports to drink coconut water. “Normal potassium levels are necessary for regular cell function,” writes Rebecca Slayton for Livestong.com. “When potassium levels drop too low, it affects your nervous system and can lead to an irregular heartbeat, which can be fatal.”

But it’s not only because of potassium why it’s a good sports drink. “Coconut water also contains 252 milligrams per serving of sodium, which is another electrolyte lost during exercise through sweat,” Slayton claims. “Sodium plays a role in your critical body functions by regulating the movement of water in and out of your cells.”

Coconut water is indeed a perfect sports drink. “The potassium and sodium content found in coconut water make it a smart choice when you become dehydrated, whether from physical activity or sickness when you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting,” Slayton states.

But that’s not all. “Coconut water offers a good source of vitamins making it a nutritious drink option,” Slayton writes. “One serving of coconut water provides 5.8 milligrams of vitamin C, along with folate, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6. Coconut water also provides other key minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.”

Aside from coconut water, there are many other products that you can get from coconuts. After all, in Sanskrit, coconut is called kalpavriksha, which means “the tree that provides all the necessities of life.”

“It is not enough that we plant the most number of trees or produce the highest number of nuts,” said Dr. Patricio S. Faylon, executive director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD). “It is getting the highest value and benefits from this crop that matters most. The best way to do this is to transform the nuts and other coconut parts into high-value products.”

That’s what Neil Garcia La-as is trying to do with his coco cider soap, branded as Bakku2Basik (literally means “back to basic”). Containing natural ingredients, it is the world’s first multi-beneficial coco cider soap.

As coconut is known globally as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, Bakku2basik’s coco cider soap takes advantage of these qualities. It is made from the sap of the coconut tree’s flowers and is fermented for 8-12 months. As it naturally turns into vinegar, it becomes a source of important nutrients and minerals.

The soap is even formulated with detoxifier-activated bamboo charcoal, giving it a dark color that assures cleansing ability.

“Coconut is a tree of life,” said La-as. “But this is not just coco cider. It is infused with activated bamboo charcoal that effectively cleanses the body. It makes the skin lighter, closes pores, and saves the skin from pimple attacks. Coco cider soap also makes many of our psoriatic patients very happy. It alleviates their autoimmune symptoms.”

Although it is still in its infancy stage as a product, coco cider soap has started to gain a solid market globally from overseas Filipino workers (OFW), particularly those working in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Dubai, and East Asia (Singapore and Malaysia).

“Our international expansion has been inevitable. Once Filipinos discover it, anywhere they are, they welcome it,” La-as said.

Copra or dried coconut meat is the main product of coconuts. It has high oil content, as much as 64%. Coconut oil, which is the most readily digested among all fats of general use in the entire world, furnishes about 9,500 calories of energy per kilo. Its chief competitors are soya bean oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.

“Many people praise coconut oil for its health benefits, including antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, improved skin and oral health, and weight loss potential,” writes Sade Meeks, a registered dietitian for healthline.com.

More so, if it is virgin coconut oil (VCO). The oil does not undergo refining, bleaching, or deodorizing and can be obtained with or without the use of heat. Thanks to the untiring efforts of the late Dr. Condrado S. Dayrit, he was able to establish that VCO works like a drug “that regulates the body’s functions and defense mechanism. It restores the normal balance of tissues or cells that have become dysfunctional.”

In the United States, VCO has increasingly become popular in natural food circles and with vegans. It was described in a New York Times article as having a “haunting, nutty, vanilla flavour” that also has a touch of sweetness that works well with baked goods, pastries, and sautés.

One person who uses VCO in his products is Alvin Louie Ang from Pantukan, Compostela Valley. He has developed beauty products with VCO as the main ingredient.

“I decided to broaden the use of coconuts, which are abundant in my province, by creating products which are considered a necessity,” Ang says. He thought of beauty soap. “These days, it is really hard to find an organic soap of good quality that is not very expensive. With that, I was inspired to make some VCO-based beauty soaps and perfumes.”

You can also get sugar out from coconut toddy. That’s what Benjamin Lao, a coconut farmer from barangay Eman in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, did.

To learn more about coconut sap sugar production, Lao had to undergo training in various government agencies. He learned from DOST that coconut toddy contains 12%-18% sugar in its natural form with important vitamins and amino acids. It is also rich in nutrients and high in potassium. It also contains phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and vitamin C.

The flowers of the coconut tree provide the sap that is made into sugar. In his research, Lao found out that a coconut tree in a good stand can yield an average of two liters of sap daily. At least four coconut trees are needed to produce one kilogram of sugar per day.

“The production of coconut sugar is very simple,” he says. “It is just a natural process of heat evaporation to convert liquid sap to solid form of sugar granules. It requires no complicated and high-cost machineries or equipment nor a huge capital.”

In the beginning, he only sells locally-produced coconut products inside his farm. Believing there was an untapped market for such a product, he hired people and started producing other alternative sweeteners like coco honey and coco sap drink that are used for desserts and other delicacies.

Lao later registered these products with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the moniker Donnabelle – a combination of the names of his two daughters. He started distributing his products in some outlets in nearby areas and the cities of Davao, Digos, General Santos, and Butuan. 

Due to the increasing demand for his products, he decided to incorporate Lao Integrated Farms Inc. in 2009. Since then, he has been exporting his products to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries. “My coconut sugar is guaranteed 100-percent free from chemicals,” he assures. 

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