Whangarei-based Kiwi coconut oil company, Cocavo have signed an agreement with major US supermarket chain, Walmart, that will see three varieties of the oil on shelves in over 4000 stores across the country and described the deal as a ‘game changer’ for its business.

Walmart approached the company at the San Francisco Winter Fancy Foods Show earlier this year where Cocavo was exhibiting its range. The grocery giant loved Cocavo’s vibrant recyclable packaging, the uniqueness of its blend of coconut and avocado oils and their sustainability, and especially the versatility of the cooking oil that can also be used as an ingredient.

“Cocavo basically sold itself to the Walmart representative with some enthusiastic dialogue with our promotions representative Brett; it did not take long for an agreement to supply to be signed off. Incredibly, Cocavo has had three variants accepted into over 4000 Walmart stores right across the US, an achievement that our US-based broker has never seen before in his long career in the industry,” said Neville Montefiore, general manager of Cocavo.

The idea for the Kiwi-owned business started around four years ago when Montefiore and business partner Chris Nathan began looking into a project to establish a state-of-the-art coconut oil extraction plant in the South Pacific. During the planning phase, Nathan developed a unique blend of extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin avocado oil.

“We decided this blend of two of the worlds healthiest oils was such an awesome product that it made a lot of sense for us to further develop and market this unique and healthy new cooking oil we named Cocavo and make it available to consumers who we knew were looking for a healthy alternative to the cheap and nasty refined oils on the market,” said Montefiore.

As global trends turning away from refined carbohydrates and sugar and demand for healthy fats increased, the duo knew the timing was right to introduce their product, made using sustainable sourced coconut and avocado oils and incorporated ‘on trend’ ingredients, into the health and culinary markets.

In late 2016 Cocavo started manufacturing its range of cooking oils and quickly grew to be recognised as a new and unique product. Within 12 months of production, the company was supplying 1000 stores in the US. For such a small start-up company, the US market proved challenging, particularly with respect to marketing into such a large country.

“We did not have the marketing budget that big corporates enjoy, so had to work smarter within our limited budgetary confines. We focused on brand recognition and consumer education, utilising mainly social media channels and embarking on some limited marketing campaigns with US PR companies, all with varying degrees of success.”

Cocavo oil boasts a range of blended oils with a combination of extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil and avocado oil. Some products are also infused with lemon and turmeric and others with lime and chilli. With lower levels of saturated fat than other coconut oil brands, Cocavo products have the added health benefits of avocado oil and contain healthy fats, vitamins and plant sterols. The company has future plans to expand its range of products, with interest in a garlic infused variant it believes will prove popular.

Regarding the Walmart deal, Montefiore said the biggest challenges for Cocavo are meeting Walmart’s timelines for delivery into their 46 distribution centres and securing reliable sources of coconut and avocado oil that meet the company’s strict quality requirements.

This isn’t the first international deal for the company, its products are already exported to the UK and already exist in over 1000 stores in the US.

“The UK and European markets both present huge opportunities, but in order to not overstretch our capacity, we are not aggressively marketing into these markets yet. We have also just exported our first 20ft container of Cocavo to Australia where it will soon be available in the Harris Farms chain in New South Wales. The other elephant in the room is, of course, the massive Chinese market. Our distributor in China has presented Cocavo at food shows in Shanghai and Hong Kong, so we are awaiting the outcome with bated breath.”

The relatively small team at Cocavo share the same enthusiasm for its range of oils and enjoy sharing their love for the product anywhere, anytime to help consumers understand what a healthy oil is. The company has received positive feedback from everyone who has used their products and cannot recall anyone who has tried Cocavo, not liking it.