Bringing A Smile With Every Bite

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - March 23, 2005
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Diamond Bakery marketing director Yolanda Santos-King,
comapnay president Brent Kunimoto and sales manager
Russell Ishimoto have fun in a product-tasting session

Brent Kunimoto recalls walking from his grandma’s house, which was two blocks away from the old Diamond Bakery near Washington Middle School, and sampling some goodies. Little did he know then that someday he’d be the president of the company, overseeing the more than 100 people who help to make, package and get the cookies out to hundreds of stores statewide.

Kunimoto, a Punahou grad with an MBA from UCLA, worked with two major national food manufacturing giants on the Mainland, General Mills and Nestle, before joining the company four years ago.

The crackling sound of opening the plastic wrapping of Diamond Bakery treats brings a smile to people’s faces as they crunch on the tasty goodies. Diamond Bakery makes more than a million crackers a day, and its best-seller is its signature line of soda crackers. Also known for its cookies, Diamond Bakery has fed Hawaii for over 83 years.

“No matter whom you talk to, they have their own personal story of our products that makes them smile,” says Kunimoto.

All the goodies are produced in one plant, located in Kalihi. The ever-popular Saloon Pilots and Royal Creme Crackers, and the line of cookies — candy bead, coconut, ruff and ready, and animal cookies — are made here.

Kunimoto says the challenge of running this business is to figure out a way to make people smile when you already provide best-selling products.

His solution has two parts. First, continue to make quality snacks using a time-tested recipe.

“We still pull out the bad ones by hand and package only the good ones,” Kunimoto says.

Second, introduce new products. So in 2004, they introduced the Hawaiian Animal Cookies. “We have taken something we do well and made it more fun,” notes Kunimoto.

With Easter coming soon, Diamond Bakery has introduced its bright yellow Easter tote to tantalize customers with eight small packages of Hawaiian Animal Cookies.

The baked morsels are shaped like ocean animals, including sharks, whales, octopi, moonfish and dolphins.

The bakery was established in 1921 by Japanese immigrant families headed by Hidegoro Murai, Kikutaro Hiruya and their friend Natsu Muramoto. Sam Dunphy joined the Diamond Bakery ohana six years later. The bakery is owned by the fourth generation of those immigrants, and they leave the day-to-day operations to the employees headed by Kunimoto. The employees have been keeping up the traditions and heritage of the original owners by producing something affordable and tasty, says Kunimoto.

The company’s aloha is even spreading to the Mainland, as visitors who come to Hawaii and try the products want them for their parties and events. Kunimoto says he enjoys the challenge of keeping up with the demand:

“Our motto is to share heartwarming aloha with people throughout the world.”

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