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Chat with Meraki: COCONO Yogurt

We chat with Justin Mackee, owner of COCONO, a natural coconut yogurt made locally in Japan.


Good morning and welcome to “Chat with Meraki.” I’m Rie and today we’re talking with Justin who is the owner and founder of COCONO which produces natural coconut yogurt. Thank you Justin for joining us today.

Hi good morning!

I just wanted to say that I’ve been eating your coconut yogurt the past week and it’s so delicious so creamy and I wanted to ask what makes COCONO‘s yogurt different from other non-dairy yogurts currently in Japan?

Thanks, I’m really glad that you enjoyed the the coconut yogurt. In Japan it’s something that’s existed but really not being available in a lot of places. That’s what led me to to making it myself. I tried it in Australia a long time ago and I was like, “I want to be able to eat this every day!” Unfortunately no one else made it for me so a few years later I started making it myself. When we started the brand last year I had a few key goals that I wanted to try and aim for. One of them was to make something that was plant based that was delicious – so delicious that even if you are someone who ate meat and dairy everyday, you still wanted to eat it. You could be vegan, you could be vegetarian, you could be a meat eater, you could be flexitarian – you still wanted to eat it. So that was one thing and that’s who I am. I’m not vegan, I’m not vegetarian, but I’d like to be a bit more plant based. I ate coconut yogurt for the first time and was like, I could eat this every day. The second thing was to try and make a product in a way that was e don’t use preservatives – sorry that’s my my business partner Hazy.

She’s like “Yes, no preservatives!”

Yeah, no preservatives, no added sugars. When I started making coconut yogurt myself I just started with coconut milk and probiotics. I wanted a thicker consistency so I looked at what can I use that’s natural, Japanese local ingredient then we added kanten, agar-agar, and that was good but it wasn’t good enough. We eventually added konyaku flour and that’s it, those are the only four ingredients we use. So a natural plant-based product that’s really delicious. The last thing was to try and do it in a way that is as environmentally sensitive as possible. We don’t use any single-use plastics and we’re in glass jars at the moment, no stickers, no seals. We’re going to try and switch to paper packaging. Those are three key goals that I started with at the beginning of last year

What are some of the health benefits of COCONO‘s coconut yogurt?

It’s a really good question. I’m not a food scientist. I am someone that has historically eaten too much, enjoyed food too much. I try and look after myself, I try and keep fit. For me personally, just anecdotally, what I love about coconut yogurt is that apart from being dairy free, it doesn’t leave me feeling heavy or bloated. There’s a real richness and creaminess to it and that comes from the coconut oils and coconut milk. This morning I’m eating oatmeal with two spoons of coconut yogurt on top with roasted apple and some granola. That two spoons of coconut yogurt is far less yogurt than someone might eat with dairy yogurt but it leaves you feeling full for a really long time. I obviously have looked into a lot of the research and there’s a lot of scientific studies out there that put forward the argument that coconut oils ,which contain a lot of MCT oils, medium-chain triglycerides, are the sort of saturated fats that help you feel much fuller and help you convert the the fats into energy much quicker. The research shows that coconut oils, MCT oils, they’re very good for helping people be healthy but also if they’re trying to lose weight, to help them lose weight as well.

At the end of the day it comes down to what works for you. This yogurt’s not going to be perfect for everyone, but for me, my customers and my friends it’s delicious and it makes you feel good.

Can you share a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what was the inspiration behind COCONO?

I think you can tell from the way I look, I am not 100% Japanese. I’m half Japanese, half British. I was born in Japan but grew up pretty much for all of my life in the U.K. I went to boarding school etc. In my previous life I worked as a risk  management consultant which meant I investigated corruption and fraud and all these crazy parts of corporate world. But how did I come to start COCONO? Well, about six or seven years ago I was on a business trip to Australia and that’s when I first tried coconut yogurt. I’ve always had a passion or interest in getting involved in the food business. I’d run a catering business in my 20s and when I had coconut yogurt I thought, “This is amazing!” This is so rich and creamy, but

What’s some of the feedback or the comments you’ve received from the Japanese market? We were talking earlier that there’s a lot of yogurt in Japan, but it’s usually dairy based and most taste the same. But yogurt, especially yours that’s very natural, sometimes you get that fermented fizz. So how has it been met in Japan?

Yeah, I was surprised that – well, I love coconut so if it had tasted like coconut I would have been okay with it – but I was surprised that it wasn’t coconut-flavored yogurt. It’s like regular yogurt with that same consistency especially if you shake the bottle. If you mix it with granola or for me I like making frozen coconut yogurt bites, and then that just like ice cream to me.

Are you planning on expanding your products or do you have any future plans for

Learn more about COCONO or buy online here.