Look for the local label


POSTED: Sunday, July 19, 2009

The state Department of Agriculture is promoting a little sticker at the Hawaii State Farm Fair that farmers say can increase sales of local products.

The Seal of Quality program started in 2006 “;to promote genuine Hawaii-grown, Hawaii-made premium products and to protect the value and integrity of the Hawaii brand,”; said Matthew Loke, a state agricultural development administrator

“;If you go to a supermarket, there's a lot of products that say 'Hawaii-this, Hawaii-that,' but it's actually not made in Hawaii,”; said Loke.

To get the seal, a green and white sticker, all fresh agricultural products must be produced in Hawaii and meet the highest quality standard.

To raise awareness of the program and to promote local products, the state is offering a mini-tote bag to anyone who brings a seal of quality to the Department of Agriculture booth at the farm fair.

“;I think we have a lot of Japanese tourists that know more about it than Hawaii residents,”; Loke said.

The program originally started with 12 local companies but has expanded to 42 this year, with seven more under review.

“;We outsell all the other products because of that stamp,”; said Michael Kliks, owner of Manoa Honey Company. “;Before this, we never had a satisfaction program to make Hawaii products stand out.”;

Companies pay the state a half-cent for each seal to cover the cost of the program. In the past three years, the state sold more than 6 million seals and in this month alone more than 1.3 million were sold, according to Loke.

Hiroshi Arai, chief executive officer of Big Island Abalone, buys 3,000 seals a year to place on boxes of abalone meat grown at the Natural Energy Laboratory on the Big Island.

“;Abalone is such a high-praised seafood and people want the highest quality. The Seal of Quality is something we can prove, something we can show the Japanese people,”; said Arai, who exports abalone meat to Japan.