The “Hawaiian” brand has a lot of clout. When a product is labeled as Hawaiian or is even insinuated as being from Hawaiʻi, consumers are lulled by the tinkling of ukulele, cooled by the trade winds, feel the aloha spirit, and purchase. And while the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture protects the express phrases of, “Made in Hawaiʻi,” “Produced in Hawaiʻi,” and “Processed in Hawaiʻi,” requiring products to be at least 51% manufactured or produced within the state, that leaves a lot of leeway. Furthermore, unlike products like Idaho potatoes, Swiss cheese or Champagne, which are geographically protected labels, anyone from anywhere can produce a product and call it “Hawaiian _________.” Surely many words readily spring to mind to fill in that blank.
The Hawaii Brand
Hawaiʻi is uniquely able to cultivate a great diversity of crops that cannot grow on the mainland, and even more, the quality of these products is exceptional. The label of “Kona Coffee” is world-renowned for a reason; the volcanic soil and climate of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi is remarkably fertile ground for coffee plants. Hawaiʻi is also the only place in the U.S. that can grow coffee beans, as well as one of the few which can grow cacao. As the bean-to-bar movement among the islands picks up momentum, it becomes increasingly clear that Hawaiian chocolate is also of extraordinary quality and distinctive terroir.
The label of “Hawaiʻi-made” is much more than the islands’ ability to grow a wide range of crops however, it is about the people in Hawaiʻi who are doing the farming, fishing, roasting, canning, beekeeping, hunting, and concocting.
While pre-Western contact, the Hawaiians of old held deep respect for the ʻaina, or land, more recent agricultural history has demonstrated exploitation and the disregard for Hawaiʻi’s fragile ecosystem. Modern Hawaiʻi-made products are returning to the generations-old traditions of regenerative farming practices. Keeping the impacts on communities in mind, Hawaiʻi-made products also consider factors such as invasive species control, local economies and the future of food sovereignty. A Hawaiʻi-made product is not one of millions of identical products manufactured in a big factory; it is made on a small scale because these are small islands. They are often made by hand. Producers in Hawaiʻi take a pride in their work that equates to greater quality. And then there is the element of aloha, the magic of Hawaiʻi that is infused into those products which are truly Hawaiʻi-made.