The impact of coconut yogurt: How purpose-driven brand Happy Coco fact-checked their environmental impact5 min read

Dairy replacements are one of the fastest growing categories in food. Many brands try to claim a piece of the pie. The Dutch-German brand Happy Coco wanted to take the extra step: What is their exact environmental footprint? Where does it come from? And most importantly: How can they improve it?

Ice cream, yoghurt, milk – all of this used to come from cows. Today, we’re used to seeing dairy alternatives in any supermarket: Soy, oat, almond, and coconut – there is a wide variety of tasty products for anyone that chooses not to buy animal-based products.

And the market is growing: The global plant-based milk market is expected to reach $21,52 billion in 2024.

Tasty and responsible coconut yoghurts since 2014

Happy Coco is based in Amsterdam and Munich, and today, they offer a wide range of yoghurts and ice cream products largely based on coconut ingredients, and raw coconut water. Their products are sold in Europe, and fully organic.

Happy Coco is a purpose-driven brand – that’s why sustainability and responsibility are at the core of everything they do. They want to aid society and the planet with their products – all fair, organic, vegan.

The environmental impact of coconut products

For Happy Coco, purpose-driven also means being honest to yourself when it comes to environmental impact. They wanted to know with certainty where their environmental impact comes from, and how they can compensate for it.

Ecochain helped Happy Coco do exactly that. Through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of their product portfolio, we wanted to find out: Where do the impacts of Happy Coco come from? How high are they? And how do they compare to their dairy alternatives?

Methodology

The Life Cycle Assessment was conducted by Ecochain using our Mobius software and the Ecoinvent database. The LCA was conducted according to ISO-norms. The results in this case study are partially anonymized and summarized for illustration. If you want to learn more, please contact our research team.

Step 1: Where are the hotspots in Happy Coco’s product portfolio?

In the first part of the analysis, we wanted to find out which impacts drive the most impact in Happy Coco’s product portfolio. 

For that, we analyzed the Global Warming Potential (CO2-Impact) of the products.

The results were clear: While the difference in impact for the different yogurt and ice cream products was comparably small, the Happy Coconut water scored an environmental impact that is almost 3x as high as the rest of the products. But why?

Happy Coco Portfolio compared by CO₂ impact
Happy Coco Portfolio compared by CO₂ impact

Coconut water: Impact from transport

A closer look at the product’s impacts showed that the majority of the impact comes from the transportation phase.

One of the differentiators for Happy Coco’s coconut water is that it’s raw. Most coconut waters on the market are processed, in order to increase shelf life. To keep it raw, the coconut water for Happy Coco’s products is shipped across the ocean frozen – and defrosted in Spain. Then, the goods are shipped to the Netherlands by truck.

In the example, you can see the majority of the (low) impact of Cocowater – sea transport (orange) accounts for less impact than truck transport (yellow) per entity.

Impact of 250 ml of Cocowater
Impact of 250 ml of Cocowater

Step 2: Organic farming vs. non-organic farming

Organic farming means that no insecticides or pesticides are used in the growing of the crops. This has a much lower impact on water consumption and terrestrial ecotoxicity because organically farmed land retains much more water than non-organically farmed land.

Additionally, the coconut trees at the agro-farming plantations where Happy Coco receives their coconuts from, are watered naturally by rainfall, and only additionally watered during sporadic dry seasons.

Step 3: Coconut vs. Dairy

The biggest competitors for Happy Coco are traditional animal-based products. Logically, one of the key questions for the team was the benchmark: How do Happy Coco’s coconut products compare to traditional animal-based products?

The results were staggering: The CO2-impact per kilogram of non-organic dairy yoghurt was 5 times as high as that of Happy Coco’s products! But why?

Animal feed: Impact driver

Happy Coco doesn’t require animal agriculture to produce its products. The most significant driver for emissions in animal agriculture are the animals. Calories in animal feed are converted by the animal, and that conversion is highly inefficient – sometimes as low as 20%. That means that 1000 kcal fed to dairy cows only get transformed into 200 kcal of milk.

For plant-based products, there is no middleman – 100% of the coconut gets transformed into food products. In the graph below, the Happy Coco products were compared based on non-organic almonds, soy, and dairy products.

Impact of dairy yogurt compared to Coco Yoghi
Impact of dairy yogurt compared to Coco Yoghi

Carbon compensation with “Trees for all”

Now that Happy Coco understands their carbon footprint, they can also compensate for it. That is why Happy Coco partnered with Trees for all, a Dutch organization that plants trees to help companies compensate for their carbon emissions.

But Happy Coco’s footprinting journey has only just begun – and further improvements in the environmental footprint of their products are already on the way. They are already working on an improved packaging, are trying to reduce their transport impact and are searching for better sources for high-impact ingredients.

Happy Coco

Sector

Published

November 26, 2020

Lead Specialist

Lex Roes, PhD

Author

Toby Liebsch

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