I am really passionate about finding good quality Paleo products and over the last few months I have been spending some time interviewing some of my favourite brands to bring you an insight into their products. Today is an interview with the founder of Coconoil, Garry Stiven.
Coconut oil is often the cooking oil of choice when following a Paleo diet and I have found that the Coconoil brand of coconut oil to be particularly tasty. I use coconut oil in the majority of my recipes; from cooking my eggs for breakfast to making homemade Paleo snack bars.
In this interview we discuss how it all started for Coconoil, why the brand has become so popular and what we can expect to see from them over the next year.
How did Coconoil get started?
On Boxing Day 2004 I was sat around the TV with my family, as I’m sure millions of others around the UK where, when the news broke of the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami. As a former field director for Save The Children I knew instantly the dreadful impact that the disaster would have on the people in the countries affected and that I had to do something.
The following week I was out in Sri Lanka doing would I could to help at the Pahamune House orphanage (a project the brand still helps support today) and waiting anxiously for three bus loads of Tsunami orphaned children that were about to arrive. The weeks that followed were filled with heart ache and tears, but whilst taking a break in a friend’s apartment in Colombo I read an article in an American lifestyle magazine about how virgin coconut oil was fast becoming one of the favourite “superfoods” on America’s West Coast.
This planted a seed in my mind about how I could help the people of Sri Lanka get their livelihoods back after the tsunami and over the next few months I worked with locals in Sri Lanka to help set up the logistics and infrastructure to produce an organic coconut oil to sell to the UK public – Coconoil was born.
Why coconut oil?
Aside from the fact coconuts were in abundance in Sri Lanka and were an obvious way to help generate money for those on the island, I genuinely believe coconut oil is one of the tastiest oils you can buy; every time I have it in a dish I’m still transported to a tropical island somewhere. It’s also one of the most versatile oils there is and is just as good a moisturiser for your skin as it is as an alternative to butter on your vegetables or in your baked sweet potato.
Coconut oil has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years and is no longer confined to health food stores; it is now widely stocked in supermarkets with many people now understanding the many health benefits of including coconut oil in their diet. One of the stand out health benefits to me is the ability to be used as a fuel by the body more readily than dairy fats (something that I think will really resonate with those educated on the Paleo diet) and therefore being linked to weight loss – something we are currently exploring in depth.
Why should people pick the Coconoil brand?
I hope people appreciate that by buying the Coconoil brand they are truly helping a good cause; but the benefits of buying Coconoil don’t just stop at the fact the coconuts are grown in Sri Lanka. We also pack our oil in Sri Lanka, which means that instead of just buying the oil on the island and then transporting it to Europe to be packed, like many brands, we put it in jars in Sri Lanka. This means two things; first, it results in more money being given to the local people on the island and, secondly, we don’t have to heat the oil in Europe, to melt it down and put it into jars – which is detrimental to maintaining the health properties of the coconut oil.
Our coconut oil is also organic and virgin, with nothing added or taken away, and it is produced by a cold pressing process; effectively the oil is squeezed out of the coconut, rather than using any heat. I think testament to what the brand means to people is the number of celebrities, from sports stars like rugby player James Haskell and Olympian Amy Williams to music stars Tinie Tempah and Alesha Dixon, who have independently come out and sung our praises.
What does ‘virgin’ mean?
This means the oil has met certain quality standards, very different to those for olive oil. The most important standard being that the oil has to be made up of at least 45% lauric acid – the fatty acid that is believed to be responsible for coconut oil’s benefits. The term is not very well policed though so if you see a coconut oil that says ‘virgin’ on it check the label to see what the lauric acid levels are. If they’re less than 45% or aren’t listed then you should look to buy another brand. Furthermore ‘extra virgin’ doesn’t mean anything at all in coconut terms, so don’t be conned into spending more money when you see this wording.
How would you suggest using the oil on the Paleo diet?
It’s easy to incorporate into a stir fry dishes and helps make them feel more authentic to their Asian roots. The oil also adds a subtle coconut flavour to fried white fish. If you allow yourself a cup of coffee a day, a teaspoon of coconut oil in it instead of milk is awesome – that’s a favourite of James Haskell.
Where can we buy Coconoil?
Ask at your local independent health store or visit our website at www.coconoil.co.uk. Where prices start at just £5.49 for a 280g tub.
What can we expect from Coconoil for the rest of 2015?
We have recently started a similar project to the one in Sri Lanka in Ghana; we therefore really want to focus on promoting our African oil to get things moving there (please see our website for more details). I’m also planning a further trip out to the Pahamune House orphanage in Sri Lanka, and we are hoping to raise some money to buy books and much needed supplies for the children there. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help out and lend your support. Any contribution you can make would be greatly appreciated and go a long way to make a big difference to the children at the orphanage.
We are hoping to continue to push general education on coconut oils and try and ensure every brand is playing by the same rules when it comes to labelling. We are also committed to research and are very excited about some ongoing work we are carrying out at Hull University; this research involves looking into how the fats in our coconut oil act differently to those found in dairy. This is a really exciting project and we look forward to sharing our results later in the year.
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