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State of Coconut Milk Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Fluctuations in coconut milk prices can impact a variety of restaurants. 

Canned coconut milk is a foundational ingredient in Thai kitchens, Indian dishes, and across other Southeastern Asian cuisines. Coconut cream and coconut meat can be used in desserts and other baked goods along with the milk. And as customer demand grows for non-dairy milk alternatives, coconut milk can be a popular option for cafes and coffee shops.

Whether it’s an essential ingredient or a means of satisfying growing guest demand, coconut milk can come at a steep cost. Operators may consider tracking wholesale coconut milk prices to help make more informed decisions about.

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We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and cafes pay for coconut milk by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price that restaurants paid for a gallon of coconut milk is $9.91 in July.

Here's a breakdown of historical data on wholesale restaurant coconut milk prices over the last year:

Restaurant coconut milk prices have been highly volatile over the past year — ranging from a low price of $8.73 in March 2023 to a high of $11.37 in May 2023.

Here's a breakdown of recent month-over-month fluctuation in wholesale restaurant coconut milk prices:

Coconut milk prices have calmed down since the May spike, hovering just below $10 in June and July.

Commodities experts weigh in on coconut milk prices

We were able to speak with some experts in the food commodities space to understand their analysis on coconut milk price trends and the impacts on restaurants. 

Question

What’s driving the volatility in almond, oat, and coconut milk prices — and how may coffee shops and cafe owners expect almond, oat, and coconut milk to trend in the future?

As inflationary pressures have eased, volume recovery has been mixed across different alternative milk products. Coconut and oat milk volume are experiencing a faster recovery than almond. Alternative milk products continue to be popular with consumers, but the increased number of product choices is dividing the market share within the industry. Oat milk has been a high growth product in recent years, but growth appears to be slowing. Almond milk remains the market leader of alternative milks, but trendy, new products could continue to erode its market share.

Courtney Schmidt
Courtney Schmidt
Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute

Importance of offering dairy-free milk options for today's customers

Driven by more health-conscious customers and dietary restrictions, guest preferences have made it increasingly important for operators at cafes, coffee shops, and other restaurants to offer non-dairy milk options.

Popular dairy-free milk options can include rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, and coconut milk. Restaurant operators can try stocking any or a few of these options to help satisfy guest demands and cater to those customers who are lactose intolerant.

The need for alternative milk options is especially important for restaurants serving coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and other menu items — just ask your baristas. It’s possible that not offering these milks can turn off customers and negatively impact loyalty.

Exploring different types of coconut milk

Coconut milk is an increasingly popular alternative to dairy milk and is widely used in various culinary applications. When choosing coconut milk, restaurant operators have the option to explore different types to find the one that best suits their menu and customer preferences.

Organic coconut milk is an option that guarantees the use of coconut meat and coconut water that is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic coconut milk is also typically free of preservatives, additives, and artificial flavors.

Unsweetened coconut milk is another option that provides a neutral base without any added sugars. It is an excellent choice for those on low-sugar or low-carbohydrate diets and offers a versatile ingredient for many culinary creations.

Coconut water has risen in popularity in recent years for its refreshing taste and potential health benefits, including electrolyte replenishment. For operators looking for a lighter alternative, coconut water can serve as a flavorful liquid base for smoothies and cocktails.

Coconut milk powder can be a convenient and versatile alternative to traditional canned or refrigerated coconut milk. It’s lightweight, has a longer shelf life, and is easier to transport and store. It can be reconstituted with water to create a creamy coconut milk that can be used in various recipes, such as soups, curries, desserts, and beverages. Coconut milk powder offers the same rich and creamy texture as liquid coconut milk, making it a popular choice for restaurant operators looking for a convenient and space-saving option.

Additionally, restaurant operators can choose from different consistencies of coconut milk, ranging from light milk to thicker versions that offer a higher fat content. This variety allows for customization depending on the desired richness or thickness required for specific dishes.

Potential health benefits of coconut milk

In addition to its delicious taste and culinary versatility, coconut milk also offers several potential health benefits. Coconut milk can be a rich source of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, and potassium.

Coconut milk is relatively high in macronutrients, such as total fat and total carbohydrates. However, the majority of the carbohydrate content comes from fiber, which may be beneficial for digestive health and can help keep customers feeling fuller for longer.

Coconut milk is also naturally gluten-free and can be an excellent option for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. It is also typically non-GMO and free from many additives that can be found in dairy milk.

It is important to note that coconut milk can be high in saturated fat and some brands of coconut milk may contain preservatives or added sugars, so it is crucial for restaurant operators to choose a high-quality product with minimal additives.

Overall, coconut milk can offer a range of potential health benefits and prove to be a great option for those seeking a dairy-free alternative. With its delicious taste and versatile applications, coconut milk is an excellent ingredient for unique culinary creations that cater to individual dietary preferences and requirements.

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See insights from real restaurant operators which can help you benchmark your current and planned restaurant technology stack against your peers as we head into 2024 and beyond.

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Start tracking coconut milk prices today

Coconut milk may be a worthy dairy alternative for your cafe or coffee shop. It may also work well in you bakery recipes. Just with any ingredient, operators should consider tracking coconut milk prices as they fluctuate over time.

That’s why restaurant operators should consider having a strong back-of-house foundation built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.


Methodology

Toast analyzed monthly invoice items for coconut milk from restaurants using xtraCHEF by Toast. Items are weighted by the frequency of orders, not quantity. A standard unit of measure is determined so that an average price can be calculated across all invoice inclusions of the ingredient.

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