Why Is Coconut Yogurt So Expensive?

Fancy ferments hit the refrigerated aisle

In life, $25 get you lots of things: a bottle of booze, a foie gras-topped burger or . . . some yogurt.

That's right: Over the last couple of years, coconut yogurt—coconut milk (or cream) that's been fermented, like traditional yogurt, with friendly bacteria—has grown from a niche health food sold at specialty shops to a pricey product sold at major markets around the country.

And the breakfast-fiending, health-conscious masses around the country are making it clear: Thick, creamy and tart coconut yogurt is so good they'll happily shell out $25 for a quart of the stuff. 

"Now is the time for coconut yogurt, because people want a more sustainable and ethical option," says Anita Shepherd, a Brooklyn-based vegan chef who debuted one of the country's first widely available coconut yogurt lines, Anita's Yogurt, in 2013. "Industrial dairy is not sustainable for the planet, and people recognize that." Shepherd, who makes her yogurts from a blend of coconut milk and coconut water, plus live cultures, adds that coconut's nutritional makeup—and in particular its lauric acid, a good-for-you saturated fat—adds to its appeal. She sells a 16-ounce container for around $10.

Australia's COYO—short for, well, the obvious—has been sold in the United States for a few years (about $5 for 12 ounces) and hit Whole Foods last year. COYO's rich, smooth snack has a base of coconut cream, tapioca and pectin for texture, and probiotic cultures. Come October, another coconut yogurt import will make its U.S. debut: UK-based The Coconut Collaborative.

But if there's one part of the country that's especially keen on fancy ferments, it's sunny, health-conscious Los Angeles. At $25 for a 16-ounce jar (or more if you buy it online), The Coconut Cult's effervescent Thai coconut yogurt isn't cheap, but fans argue that the product actually tastes alive, thanks to an extra spike of probiotics culled from humans. The yogurt, which has been on the market for the last year or so, takes on a pleasant sour note and packs almost as much fizz as kombucha. Perhaps that's the rationale behind the brand's warning to neophytes, which is spelled out on the FAQs page online: "We recommend starting with just a few spoonfuls and progressing your way to a whole bowl."

If a dry-aged burger feels like a better $25 investment, the good news is that coconut yogurt is a snap to make at home. You'll find various recipes floating around online, but the basic idea is to mix probiotic powder with coconut milk, let the mixture rest for a day or two in a warm place, and you're good to go. One of the world's oldest, most popular fermented foods has been totally rewritten for modern tastes. 

Kat Odell, a freelance food and travel writer, is the author of Day Drinking and forthcoming title, Unicorn Food. Follow her on Instagram at @kat_odell.