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Not easy being green: The story behind the startup

Coconut GreensHusband-and-wife team Geoff and Jo Hunter are the dynamic duo behind Coconut Greens, a superfood powder that brings together the taste and hydration qualities of coconut water with nine detoxing green, organic superfoods.

A former ironman triathlete, Geoff had a health scare that landed him in hospital just two weeks before an event. With his background in pharmaceuticals and nutrition, he developed the concept so he could maintain optimal health.

Inspired by a friend’s love of green smoothies, Jo drew on her background as a lab technician to help Geoff create a blend of regular green veggies that was palatable. They added a lot of fresh coconut to the mix, and Coconut Greens was born.

From the outset, said Jo, they were looking for a combination of simple, regular greens. “We know that only 15 per cent of males and 24 per cent of females in Australia actually have their required serves of veggies every day, which is really low,” she said. “So we’re trying to be really clear about what we are, which is a great-tasting greens blend that gives you eight to 10 serves of green vegetables in each scoop.”

Back and forward

The development stage took about three years, involving a research trip to the US and a lot of taste-testing before the formula met their approval.

“We didn’t want to spend our time developing something that already existed, because there are many grains and powders on the market. But we knew there was a place for something that was fully organic, and that is what we really went for,” Geoff said. “We went back and forward with the contract manufacturer with samples and tasting before getting it just right.”

While Coconut Greens has had good uptake online, the retail market has been a completely different ball game, said Geoff. “It is really hard if you are not an established distributor or don’t have relationships in the retail sector.”

To understand what retailers need, they spend a lot of time figuring out how to make the product attractive enough to put on shelves. After running pilots with a couple of retailers, including an organic grocer and whole-food merchants, the team officially launched its retail offering at The Naturally Good Expo in Sydney in June. Cafes will be another big focus.

“A cafe in New York City has us on its menu,” said Jo. “They found us online and introduced our product to their chia puddings, which has really opened our eyes to foodservice opportunities.”

With a goal of national distribution within two years and a dream of one day being a household brand in the health-food market, the Hunters are giving everything to make the product a success. Not only that, but for every tub sold the couple donates five years’ worth of vitamin A to children at risk of blindness in developing countries, a commitment they instilled within the business right from the start.

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