For a few years I have been using Tropical Sun coconut milk.
Coconut milk is the result of squeezing the coconut flesh to create a creamy liquid. It's sometimes also called coconut cream. It typically comes in a tin.
It's quite hard to find a brand that does not have crap in the ingredients. Usually it's things like xanthan gum or corn starch, designed to thicken the liquid and make it more creamy. Often, preservatives and other chemicals are added to prolong shelf-life.
Tropical Sun's ingredients were simply "Coconut, Water". Great. Here is a screenshot from an online store selling the product.
When you opened the tin, the product would have settled, so there was a thick plug of thick cream at the top, with watery mixture at the bottom. You could scoop out the thick stuff and refrigerate for use as a dessert cream, and use the more liquid stuff for cooking. Or you could mix it all together and use as a double cream consistency for all things.
Every so often, a tin would taste a little tangy - perhaps because it was past its shelf life - but we were happy to take that hit for a pure product. When we were forced to use the more adulterated versions you could tell the difference. It did not feel authentic.
Coconut milk/cream is key ingredient in my Paleo/Primal breakfast of champions, and I even included a photo of the brand in the recipe post.
A few weeks ago, Mrs M and I commented that the coconut milk tasted different. It was creamier, and somehow nicer. We thought nothing more about it. Perhaps they had changed their processes to grind the flesh more finely, I thought to myself.
Last week, I decided to buy in bulk. My normal source was hard to get to, so it would save time. I found I could buy crates of 12 from the AffriCarr online store. They were very efficient and within two days, two crates arrived.
We noticed that this batch too, tasted especially creamy. Imagine our horror when we checked the ingredients and saw this:
Coconut Extract (60%), Water, Thickener Corn Starch, Stabilisers E446, E407, and E412, Acidity Regulator E330.
It is all about profit, of course - if you can thicken the product with cheap corn starch then you need less coconut in there. You can also make it taste 'nicer'. It certainly fooled us. And with all those preservatives you can keep tins in the supply chain and on the shelves for longer.
Thus, the consumer starts thinking that proper coconut milk is homogeneous and creamy and never goes off. This forces the other manufacturers of coconut milk to consider adulterating their own product so they can complete with the price, taste and shelf life.
Here is an open letter to Tropical Sun to find out why they did it. I will copy the AfriCarr website, just so they also hear the voice of the consumer.
Dear Tropical Sun,
I have been a big fan of your coconut milk for a long time now, and was dismayed when your ingredients changed from being pure, to being decidedly impure.
I eat coconut milk precisely because it does not contain things like starchy carbohydrate, so the idea that you have adulterated the product with corn starch seems like madness. Was it commercial pressures that led to your decision, or a genuine (albeit in my view, misguided) desire to create a better product for the consumer?
Perhaps I am in the minority in caring about these subtleties, but in a world where awareness of additives and a desire to eat real food is growing at a fast pace, your decision appears to be a retrograde step. My blog readers and I will be interested to read your response.
"Why is there Crap in my Coconut Milk?" - Tropical Sun's Perplexing Reply
Tropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"
After Much Searching... the Perfect Coconut Cream