Coconuts are synonymous with the Pacific Islands. The versatile fruit is used in everything from cooking to medicines and even textiles. Coconuts have served local Polynesian communities well for generations, but not many people outside of the Islands have had the opportunity to experience just how wonderful the humble coconut really is.
A new Rarotongan business is hoping to change all that by being the first company in the Cook Islands to export quality virgin coconut oil.
Rito Cook Islands began in 2011 as the brainchild of Robert and Susan Wyllie. Their aim was to produce some of the finest coconut oil on the market, and with such a versatile product they created a range of skincare products as well, all with a coconut oil base.
Robert, a Kiwi, and Susan, of Cook Islands decent, were wed in Rarotonga 16 years ago. From the time they were married, an island lifestyle had always appealed to them, but not until 2006 did they finally decide to move permanently to Rarotonga.
“My wife, Susan, has been involved with hair and beauty in the past and it was always something that she wanted to do, to have her own skincare range. And we knew a little bit about the benefits of the coconut oil and saw that wasn’t being utilised here so we decided to do both of those things,” says Robert.
Much like the versatility of coconut in its raw form, virgin coconut oil, has variety of uses. It can be used in hot or cold cooking, in salads or as a healthier option for frying; it maintains its medicinal properties with proven research into its ability to increase levels or ‘good’ cholesterol while lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol; and Susan even recommends pouring it over ice cream, where it freezes in a similar way to chocolate icecap.
However, much of what makes Rito Cook Islands virgin coconut oil so great is the unique system used to create it. Robert and Susan use the age old cold press process and it’s this honest technique that turns ordinary coconuts into their star product.
Cold pressed oils retain all of their flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Made famous by olive oil producers, the method is just as effective in creating coconut oil.
The solid flesh inside fresh fallen coconuts is grated and dried at a low temperature. The coconut flesh is then cold pressed using a hydraulic ram that squeezes the coconut flesh with a force of around six tones. The oil produced from this first round of pressing is known as the ‘virgin’ oil, which then gets bottled and packaged for sale.
Robert and Susan are hoping to make their products available to more markets in the future but they are happy to take things slowly yet surely.
“We’re looking to expand our skincare range and look to build the amount of oil that we’re able to produce. But we’re just taking all these things one step at time – trying not to get too ahead of ourselves,” says Robert.
For more information about Rito Cook Islands Virgin Coconut Oil and skincare products go to www.ritocookislands.com