Local food companies prep for the big dance in San Francisco
HAWAII will be well-represented at the Winter Fancy Foods Show later this month in San Francisco, and it is no small feat for them to be there.
Some local companies go on their own, but six companies will be part of the Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association's booth: Big Island Bees, Diamond Bakery, Hawaii Kai Corp., Noh Foods, Planted by the River and Pupukea Gardens.
"The opportunity is thrown out to everybody," said Katie Anderson, the association's executive director.
The state Department of Agriculture offers some financial support but "the rest is paid by members," she said.
Would-be exhibitors must also join the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Inc., the organizer, which screens products for acceptance into the show.
"None of our members have had any problem getting in, because I think we do pay attention to packaging, ingredients and quality," Anderson said.
Perhaps amusing to some, foods many of us take for granted as pantry staples, such as Saloon Pilot Crackers or Noh seasoning mixes, are "actually gourmet to the rest of the country -- sort of exotic to other people," she said.
A 10-by-10 booth for the Jan. 21-to-23 show costs $3,200, but that's just a bare booth.
"You're competing with the highest levels of gourmet products in the world and you just can't have a shabby booth," she said.
The HFMA spent $6,000 on its booth, which is stored and reused each year.
There are travel expenses and the cost of shipping products for display and sampling -- not to mention what would happen if a company's dream came true with a big order from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or other big buyer. That could mean more costs for hiring, ramped-up production and delivery.
"It's hard for any small company to make that leap," Anderson said. Big buyers "want so much of this quality in this time period and you've just gotta deliver ... or they drop you."
One company going on its own to the show is Hawaiian Host Inc.
It will debut its Pure Aloha Organics line of roasted, sea-salted macadamia nuts in 4.5 ounce cans, and stand-up boxes of milk chocolate and dark chocolate covered nuts, as well as a similarly packaged, non-organic line. The nuts are grown in Kohala on the Big Island.
Each box has eight individually wrapped chocolates, "a little indulgence ... for self-consumption," chuckled Marketing Director Sara Muraoka.
They "just hit the shelves a couple weeks ago" at Hawaii's Don Quijote stores, and talks are underway with other retailers.
The company has been a show exhibitor for about 5 years and has regular visitors. "Everyone always has a story about going to Hawaii, or someone who came to Hawaii and brought them back some macadamia nuts," Muraoka said.
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