Whole Foods picks first isle vendors
The grocer finishes its first selections for the Kahala Mall store
Whole Foods Market has selected its first round of Hawaii-based partners for its grocery, seafood, bakery and beauty departments.
Competition was stiff, but the Texas-based grocer fielded pitches from dozens of local vendors and made its initial picks, which range from Kona Deep, the well-known desalinized drinking water drawn from the ocean off of Big Island shores to small operations like the North Shore Soap Factory in Waialua.
Michael Besancon, president of Whole Foods' southern Pacific region, said he was pleased with the variety.
Among them are: Big Island Organics, Hawaiian Isle Organics, Hawaii Kai Gourmet Sea Salts, Oils of Aloha Macadamia Nut Oils, Big Island Bees, Hawaiian Honey, Royal Hawaiian Honey, Harpo's Gourmet Salad Dressings and Marinades, Wahoo Canned Ono, Hawaiian Pops Flavored Popcorn, Hawaiian Springs Water, Kona Deep Water, Hawaiian Ice and Akamai Pacific, a distributor of a variety of local products.
For the bakery, Whole Foods selected Honolulu-based Ba Le Bakery, and Big Island-based Wings of the Morning Coffee.
In the seafood department, Whole Foods chose Garden & Valley Isle Fish Co., as well as Fresh Island Fish Co. and Kona Blue, the aquaculture company that grows the Kampachi brand fish on the Big Island.
Bruce Johnson, owner and CEO of Fresh Island Fish Co., said winning the Whole Foods account was a major coup.
"It's definitely a great signature account because they're high-quality minded," said Johnson, adding that his philosophy of natural resources management was also similar to Whole Foods.
Debora Driscoll, owner and vice president of North Shore Soap Factory, which produces the Hawaiian Bath and Body product line, said the family-run business will get a significant boost from the account.
The soap factory at the former Waialua sugar mill has been producing natural bar soaps and skin care products made from local ingredients for the last 10 years.
Whole Foods Market plans to open its first Hawaii store, a 26,000-square-foot outlet in Kahala Mall, next spring.