It all began when our parents were diagnosed with Diabetes. We were appalled at what was being passed off as "diabetic-safe" foods, especially in the snack category. We discovered that sugar is often disguised on labels … Imitation sugar substitutes are used as sweetening agents. Sugar is frequently added in other forms such as fruit juice concentrates, honey (which when heated and processed for use in manufacturing, essentially becomes sugar syrup), and the most infamous of all, "high fructose corn syrup." (HFCS).
We quickly developed an overwhelming desire to create a low glycemic, gluten-free snack line that was truly safe for diabetics, using the purest, most organic, least processed ingredients we could find.
Our original plan was to sweeten our products with organic agave syrup. The unexpected hairpin twist in the road (hence the Lennon quote), came when we discovered that our well-researched agave supplier was no longer selling the brand we had been using.
Upon further investigation, we discovered that this so called "reputable" raw, organic agave, was not raw at all. Nor was it organic. Plus, it was watered down with corn syrup. We were horrified! But on another level, we were grateful to have revealed this atrocity BEFORE we went into production of our products. What an incredible blessing in disguise.
At that point, I didn't trust ANY agave syrup. And yet, all of our recipes had been developed using agave as the low glycemic sweetener of choice. Thus began the mysterious search to replace agave syrup in all of our recipes.
At that time, the overall buzz was beginning to turn away from agave as an accepted, low glycemic sweetener. Not because it isn't still considered to be well within the low glycemic range of less than 55 on the glycemic index (GI) scale, but because most agave syrup is very "processed", and therefore lacking in the majority of naturally occurring nutrients and enzymes needed for our bodies to properly digest and utilize it nutritionally. Not only that, most agave is "hydrolyzed" at temperatures of 140 degrees F. for approximately 36 hours to turn the agave juice which has almost no sweetness, into a sweet tasting syrup. The end product contains nearly 90% fructose. Even though fructose breaks down in the body at a much slower rate than sucrose, a 90% ratio still seemed very high to me.
We couldn't in good conscience continue to use a sweetener that had such a questionable history. So we literally scoured the globe in search of another low glycemic sweetener. Nearly out of options, I came upon a product that was relatively unknown in the American marketplace. Its name sounded intriguing. Wow, what exactly was this new thing called "coconut sugar"?
Here's what I learned…
Coconut sugar is made by collecting the "sap" from coconut tree blossoms. Who knew?! There are specific species of coconut trees that can be "tapped" (much like maple trees are tapped in the maple syrup making process). Bamboo containers are used to collect the sap of the coconut trees right at the blossoms. When the coconut trees are tapped, they produce a continuously flowing "inflorescence" (juice or sap) that exudes from the coconut blossoms. This naturally sweet sap is very low glycemic (GI of 35), raw and enzymatically alive, an abundant source of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH.
It is then minimally evaporated at low temperatures (only to remove excess moisture), never exceeding an average summer day in the tropics. The end result is a syrup-like product known as coconut "toddy", which is then further evaporated into crystal form to produce the coconut sugar.
A gigantic light bulb went off in my head. Who cares about the end product ~ I want the toddy! If it is in syrup form, then maybe it will work as our replacement for agave. Numerous communications with companies in the Philippines ensued, and a short time later, alas, I held in my hands, coconut toddy...
I must admit, it wasn't an immediate love affair. The first toddy we received was very dark and pungently sweet. We continued to work closely with our Philippine affiliates, and over time, discovered that the evaporation process could be adjusted to produce many variants of toddy from lighter to darker with equal variation in flavor. Eventually we landed on the exact perfect viscosity and flavor.
Our Philippine supplier offered us the opportunity to bring the coconut toddy (which we call "Nectar") and the coconut sugar (which we sell as "Crystals") to the American market. Coconut sap also produces an amazing vinegar and a soy-free seasoning sauce we call Coconut Aminos. It made sound business sense to first introduce these coconut sap ingredients into health food stores, even prior to our snacks, which are now made with these wonderful low glycemic sweeteners.
As I mentioned, it all began with a heartfelt desire to create a low glycemic, gluten-free snack line for diabetics. And that is precisely what happened! Our task is to first educate the American public about how nutritious and awesome tasting these coconut products are, in order to pave the way for the uniqueness of our yummy snacks that are made with them.
Hence, with immense gratitude to the grand creation of life, you have just shared our serendipitous journey... It is continuing to evolve at this very moment, and we can't wait to see what happens next! We'll keep you posted...