Kokonati is a family owned business, run by a Sri Lankan Kiwi couple, settled in Auckland. Carrying on a tradition started by their great grandfather, RMP Chettiar in 1913 Ceylon, they are fourth generation coconut oil millers. Pure Ceylon Kokonati, was born of their love for the two beautiful countries they call home, Ceylon and New Zealand. Pure Ceylon because our range of pure coconut products and spices are grown and harvested only in Ceylon, and kokonati because it is the Maori word for coconut!
What is your company background, how did you start the business?
“My family have been Coconut Oil Millers in Sri Lanka since 1913, when my great grandfather established a state of the art ( at that time) coconut oil factory and supplied huge volumes of coconut oil & copra to Europe and UK. During the 1983 terrorist riots, when I was just five years old, our ancestral property and coconut oil mill was burnt down to ashes, leaving us destitute.”
“My dad who was managing the mill until this misfortune, established a coconut oil factory in Chennai, India and continued to trade in coconut oil in Sri Lanka until 2001, when he retired with my mother and moved to New Zealand. A few years later, when he was ill, I moved to New Zealand and registered our company, Enterprising Enterprises Limited, in July 2012.”
“Fast forward 6 months to Jan 2013, we launched our brand ‘Pure Ceylon Kokonati’ products into organic, natural and health food stores. We are now retailing in around 150 stores all over NZ and also retail online. We supply several specialty organic food kitchens, raw food makers and specialty ice creameries. I worked full time on our business and after working in retail for two years after relocating, my partner also joined me full time since 2015. No looking back, no regrets!”
What is the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?
“We have the widest range of coconut products under one brand in NZ. We make organic coconut oils, butters, jam, flour, desiccated coconut, coconut sugar, nectars, vinegars, water, sauces, soaps, cinnamon and dried fruit cuts. There are 30 different products within those categories combined.”
“Our products stand out in the market as they are all single origin, single ingredient (except for Jam and Aminos), packed at source, dairy free, vegan, gluten free. All our products are harvested, produced and packed at source, so they have an extended shelf life even beyond the best before dates marked as they are minimally exposed in processing/ packaging.”
“Each product is produced in a facility dedicated to producing that type of product (for many years, several generations in most cases) so the quality of each product is the very best. For example our coconut vinegar is brewed in a plant managed by a fourth-generation vinegar-maker. The years of skills, tradition and the culture (literally in the case of vinegar!) that each family owned business we work with brings to that product ensures each product is of the best quality it can be.”
“Not all our products are mass –produced. For instance, our wild kithul treacle, a low GI syrup is harvested from the flower sap of the Caryota Uren, a Fishtail-palm tree that grows abundantly in the rainforests of Central Sri Lanka. We can only produce a small amount of this product, because these palms are not commercially grown or cultivated, what the forest can give, is what we can get, no more no less.”
“Our coconut oil soaps are handmade in a facility that helps teach soap making skills to young boys from the neighbouring village orphanage.”
“Almost every product has a unique story behind it, we have just been so busy trying to get everything done on a daily basis as a young growing business, that we have as yet not told our full story yet!”
Has there been any recent company news?
“We have only recently introduced the Heirloom range of spice powders from Ceylon.”
What are the plans for the business moving forward, is there any expansion on the horizon?
“We have a few more coconut based products that are trending, currently under development. As we are coming to be known as the one stop shop for everything coconut and natural tropical fruits and spices, we get approached all the time by New Zealand food companies looking for authentic, sustainable products or ingredients that come from our part of the world. So though we may not be actually bringing down bulk under our brand name for us to retail, we actually source many products exclusively for some bulk buyers/ manufacturers to make their products with.”
Where are your products currently available to buy, and are you looking at or wanting to expand your availability? If so, where would you like to see the product situated?
“Our products are available in a number of Farro Fresh stores, Huckleberry Farms and other health and specialty stores. We would like to get into more gourmet specialty food stores and artisan food maker suppliers.”