SAMOA ADG Natural Foods International turn the mighty coconut into power 


Bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, General Manager of Natural Foods International Grant Percival is literally turning coconut waste into power. So much power that in the near future he could generate enough to supply all of Samoa.

Natural Foods have been around for almost 70 years, but have flexed, grown, and changed as the market has changed.

A core segment of their business is still supplying snack foods to the local market, but in recent years they have turned to supply fresh coconuts to Australia and New Zealand.

They also harvest unproductive senile trees (roughly one in five coconut trees in Samoa are unproductive) to produce coconut wood to a large international market, replanting as they go.

Up to 32,000 coconuts are exported each week, but the total supply is closer to 100,000. That leaves 68,000 coconuts that are not export quality, but which are turned into copra.

The by-product of copra manufacture is a lot of husks and shells which, it turns out, can be put through a gasification process to produce energy.

Who knew? Using waste products from copra manufacture and tree harvesting, power is being generated, resulting in zero CO2 emissions.

Motivated by international supermarket certification environmental impact requirements, this aspect of the Natural Foods empire is set to become a significant business in its own right, only possible because the raw product – coconut waste – is freely available.

Grant had already invested a large amount of cash into the project, but Business Link Pacific’s adaptation grant was the first step along the way to creating a holistic business. Funds were used to purchase equipment to harvest trees and provide seed money to get the gasification project underway. While this entire project is beyond the scope of BLP, the grant means Natural Foods can demonstrate market orders when negotiating large loans, and even secure angel investors to cover funding in the medium term.

Is this a Covid-19 story? No way.

Natural Foods has gone from strength to strength through the pandemic, using Grant Percival’s extensive business expertise to identify opportunities and push through barriers.

They save on freight by clever packing – doubling the number of coconuts that fit in each container; growers are well paid, on the understanding that they adhere to the export requirements clearly set out by Natural Foods.

Germinating coconuts are no good because they deteriorate too quickly, and the market doesn’t want small coconuts. Natural Foods’ export numbers have grown dramatically, only because they are able to maintain high-quality supply.

Grant Percival sensibly used BLP’s consultant to ensure all documentation was prepared correctly, and there were no hiccups or delays along the way. The grant has enabled Natural Foods to increase turnover and profitability by up to 40-50%, a win-win for the future of the power supply in Samoa.

The Finance Facility enables access to capital for stabilisation, recovery and growth of viable but financially distressed businesses in the Pacific Islands due to the impact of COVID-19 on the regional economy. 

The Facility opened applications to Business Adaptation Grants across eight Pacific Island countries in January and June 2021. Adaptation Grants have benefitted over 200 businesses to date, and Business Link Pacific is currently processing a similar number of grants to be disbursed before the end of the year. 

To further support recovery and growth, Business Link Pacific is negotiating key partnerships with Financial Institutions to offer concessionary lending to small businesses in the region and will soon make information available on accessing those products. 

The Finance Facility also offers curated information about financial products for businesses on its free online tool, the Finance Finder; visit today to find out what is available to your business right now.