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JVI Imports now offers brown coconuts from South India

jvi coconuts
Courtesy JVI Imports

January 16, 2024 PHILADELPHIA – In early December of 2023, JVI Imports BB #:104221 received their first container loads of brown coconuts from India.

This is a new program for JVI Imports, the import division of Philadelphia-based specialty produce wholesaler John Vena Inc. known for its counter-season pomegranate program, and it promises to make waves in the US coconut market.

India has long been a major supplier of brown coconuts, also known as dry coconuts or mature coconuts, to Europe and the Middle East, but they are relatively new as a supplier to the US market. US demand is currently fulfilled primarily by fruit from the Dominican Republic, but the team anticipates a strong market for Indian coconuts thanks to its unique combination of quality and value.

“Based on the volumes and quality being produced by Indian growers, and the market conditions there, we expect this Indian product to compete very favorably with other exporting countries here in the US,” reports JVI Imports’ President John Vena. “We have been very impressed with the ability of our Indian grower partners to produce and ship high-quality coconuts that can compete with the best here in the US, but at a very competitive price point.”

According to 2020 data from the FAO, India produces more coconuts than any other country except Indonesia. Within India, coconut production is centered in Southern India where coastal tropical and subtropical climates present the ideal growing conditions.

JVI Imports’ key partner is Vashini Exports, a large family-owned grower in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They have many decades of experience growing, packing, and shipping coconuts and maintain a strong commitment to food safety and traceability with Global GAP and organic certifications. Thanks to the growing conditions, fruit can be harvested and shipped year-round.

The JVI Imports team is confident in the ability of their grower to meet the needs of even the most particular US retailers.

“Vashini has been shipping coconuts around the world for decades and they know their stuff,” says Vena. “They understand all the boxes that must be ticked, and then go above and beyond to add value, offering, for instance, sized coconuts – currently a rarity in the US, but we hope to change that as we build partnerships with retailers and begin to understand their particular preferences in terms of diameter, counts, and pack sizes.”

According to Emily Kohlhas, Marketing Manager at John Vena Inc., JVI Imports will be targeting both retail and foodservice markets, with a focus on ethnic retailers.

“Dry coconuts are becoming a more common site in the tropical section of mainstream produce departments near pineapples and mangoes, but the bulk of the demand is still being driven by ethnic markets where brown coconuts are a staple part of the weekly shop,” says Kohlhas.

She also reports that there will be a particular focus on retailers that serve Indian, Southeast Asian, and Latino communities.

JVI Imports hopes to continue to build a market for brown coconuts in the US. While the initial program is focused on year-round availability of bulk dry brown coconuts, the team is already planning an expansion to include additional SKUS, including Easy-Open coconuts and brown coconuts with PLU labeling.

Kohlhas emphasizes the need for continued consumer education around coconuts.

“Many people don’t understand the distinction between these brown, mature coconuts and a young coconut,” she explains. “Brown coconuts are not used for their water – they’re a source of fresh, delicious coconut meat for shredding, desiccating, or blending and pressing into coconut milk. There is some clear coconut water in them, but it tends to have an off, slightly fermented flavor, so it’s generally discarded. It’s important to emphasize these differences when training produce department staff so they can direct consumers to the right option for their needs.”

Volumes will start slowly, but JVI Imports anticipates consistent growth through 2024 as the customer base develops.

“Our initial trials have been very positive, and we already have buyers coming back for more,” explains Vena. “We’ve built this program with an eye towards steady, consistent supply. Our partner growers can produce and ship year-round, so we hope to be building an entirely new supply chain to support large-scale retail and foodservice demand.”

About John Vena Inc. & JVI Imports
Established in 1919, John Vena Inc. (JVI) is a fourth-generation, family-owned and -operated produce importer, wholesaler, and distributor providing a full suite of supply chain services including repacking, ripening, and logistics. JVI handles a wide range of specialty and premium items for foodservice, retail, and processing, including fresh herbs, greenhouse vegetables, gourmet foods, tropical fruits, ethnic produce, wild edibles, microgreens, edible flowers, and baby vegetables. JVI Imports is the in-house import division of John Vena Inc. building on decades of experience importing and marketing specialty, exotic, and tropical items across the Eastern United States.

For more information:

Emily Kohlhas