Commercial Real Estate: Coconut-based health foods maker shifts to Petaluma

With foods makers scrambling for lower-sugar sweetening alternatives and recent medical research reversing diatribes against palm oil, coconut and the benefits of balancing diets with certain fats, Leslie's Organics, LLC (415-383-9800, is readjusting logistics for its Coconut Secret line of consumer products as sales increase.

The company leased 18,000-square-feet of warehouse space at 1297 Dynamic Way in Petaluma in late April and plans to be ready to receive products there in July, according to co-owner Leslie Caren. Sales are primarily to retail outlets through natural foods distributors, with some to online stores and foodservice providers.

"It was an inevitable move in order to have our products ready on time," she said. The company, still Mill Valley-based, previously had been using a third-party warehouser.

Ms. Caren, a natural-foods industry marketing and advertising consultant for more than three decades, launched the venture in 2008 with her brother Randy Stoler after coming up with healthful low-glycemic-index snacks to help manage their parents' diabetes.

They worked with Mendocino Coast chef Dory Kwan to create snack bars and other products that use coconut syrup-like toddy, which they call "nectar," evaporated at low temperatures from coconut tree blossom "sap." The toddy can also be evaporated further to make sugar-like crystals.

The low temperature for processing is designed to keep the enzymes alive and protect the nutritional content of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins and nearly neutral pH. Compared with the glycemic index of sugar at 65--100 and of honey at 55--83, the coconut nectar and sugar have an index of about 35.

First to the market during the tough economic climate of late 2008 were canisters of coconut crystals and flour as well as bottles of nectar, sap-based vinegar and a savory sap-based liquid seasoning called "Coconut Aminos" to be used like soy sauce. Next came four types of coconut snack bars made with their own sweeteners. Also in the mix are ice desserts made from raw coconut cream.

Whole Foods Market nationwide carries various of the 16 items now in the product line. Products range in retail price from $3.29 for snack bars to $9.59 for crystals.

Haden Ongaro and Mark Carrington of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank brokered the Petaluma lease between Leslie's Organics and building owner BBK Capital Investment.***

Irvine-based commercial real estate brokerage network Sperry Van Ness International Corp. added a 29th California office and a second one in the North Bay with newly established franchise Sperry Van Ness/MG Property Advisors, Inc. (415-516-1863,

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