If you've ever had a pina colada, virgin or otherwise, you've had Coco Lopez cream of coconut, or at least some cheap imitation. For a very long time, coconuts have been processed into an Asian cooking oil possessing artery-curdling levels of cholesterol, but an entirely different coconut-based industry was born in 1970 the University of Puerto Rico. Using money from a government grant, the university (for whom Mr. Lopez worked) purchased a VP-6 screw press from the Vincent Corporation to squeeze the milk out of boiled and shredded coconut. The coconut milk is heavily sweetened and spun in a centrifuge for further filtration and refinement. The thick, fragrant result is one of the world's most calorically dense foods and can vary in consistency from molasses to the paste that kindergarteners eat, depending on the temperature.
Mr. Lopez eventually took over the business and relocated the operation to the Dominican Republic, where the necessary ingredients and resources are cheap and plentiful, except for sugar, which is imported from Guatemala.