Having started his coconut journey in 2018 through an acquisition of a closing down coconut oil factory and turning it around to one of the top 10 exporters in Sri Lanka, Dulara, the entrepreneur, had a new vision in 2021. He wanted to introduce the world’s first dairy-free drink with an entirely coconut milk base. He saw the importance of this innovation in battling climate change and uplifting those in the coconut value chain.
Towards the end of 2021, the Nootz team consisting of R&D lead Pulitha Senadeera, started to consult culinary experts such as Dush Ratnayake and Dutch Food Technology scientists from the PUM program – Catrinus van der Sluis and Michiel Werner – to begin the development process. The company also hired two Dutch interns from the HAS Applied Sciences University in Den Bosch Netherlands – Bonita Jansen and Bente Verdonk– to work on the project in Sri Lanka.
As the first step of the process, we conducted market research and found out that the European consumer was not merely looking for healthy and convenient products, but they were also looking for authentic experiences. Survey participants rated tropical experiences high on their preference list for a product coming out of Sri Lanka. Therefore, our recipe formulations consisted entirely of tropical fruits sourced fresh from Sri Lanka.
In Q2 2022, we took our initial recipe formulations and began upscaling the process at a UHT plant. Since an entirely coconut milk product with fresh natural fruit ingredients have never been developed before, the commercial scale production trials were extremely challenging. We had to implement brand new technological processes at each step of the flow chart to meet our product specification. The challenge was further exacerbated when we decided to make it a zero preservative product, but with a long enough shelf life of 15 months.
After several cost trial and errors, we produced a successful batch in Q3 of 2022. After extensive lab tests, we sampled the batch at Biofach in Germany and at 80s Club in Sri Lanka to 100 participants. We received terrific feedback; nearly 70% of the survey participants stated that they will purchase this product if it was available on the retail shelf.