Robert Buxton, the last of the Vavasseurs, which was a huge dried coconut company, died this week.

Coconut, as an ingredient in the production of confectionery items was first utilized in the United Kingdom in the late 1870's. At that time, whole nuts were being shipped into that country from its colony in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where coconuts grew in great abundance. However, because of difficulties in the handling and distribution of the raw material, coupled with long shipping times, product spoilage became a major problem. In 1888, a firm headed by a British entrepreneur, Henry Vavasseur, conducted experiments on a tea leaf dryer, successfully developing a process for preserving the material through drying (or desiccating) of the coconut meat. Vavasseur subsequently introduced the very first desiccated coconut brand in England called the Black V and commenced commercial production in Ceylon. The brand became an instant success and the company quickly expanded distribution throughout the rest of Europe. Before the end of the century, the brand was introduced into the United States. In 1909, the USA imposed a heavy tariff on imports of the product into the country. It, however, exempted the Philippines, which was a part of its territories in Asia at that time, seeking to help in the development of its coconut industry. Taking advantage of the duty exemption, the Vavasseurs established production facilities in the Philippines in 1923.

The Vavasseur brands (Red and Black V) are still sold; but the original company is long gone.


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