Made In Hawaii Is Sweet Enough
Mokuleia mangos, Maui raw sugar and Wailea lemons and limes are just some of the local ingredients that Made In Hawaii Foods owner Don Akayama uses in his signature line of Island Preserve jams, jellies and fruit preserves.
“We wanted to sell things grown and made in Hawaii,” says Akayama about his business, that was started in 1992.
“In the food business, you can be a big manufacturer and distribute to all the grocery stores with smaller profit margin,” notes Akayama. “Or you can sell direct to the customer without a middleman. We chose that direction rather than going into the stores.”
While you can visit the 1,500-square-foot Pearl City factory outlet, there are some shops that carry Island Preserve products such as Executive Chef at Ward Warehouse, Compleat Kitchen, and Petals and Beans. Other venues that stock the jams and jellies are Island Keepsakes, Halekulani and R. Field Wine Co.
The two most popular flavors are poha berry and anything lilikoi - particularly Lilikoi Cream Cheese. Since a few of Akayama’s family members have diabetes, some products also are available sugar-free.
Future goals for the company, he says, are to get more orders online and to keep the work environment fun.
Akayama started out by selling other people’s locally made products on weekends in the concession area on Hickam Air Force Base.
“My mom used to make guava jam and mango chutney,” explains Akayama, who grew up in Palolo and graduated from Kaimuki High School. “Maybe that’s why I prefer my jams not so sweet or with more of the fruit flavor than how others were making it. So, I said, ‘We can do better than that.’ We just kept experimenting, and mango is the first one we came up with in 1995. Now we have 30 varieties.”
A mom also provided the inspiration for another line of products that Akayama now puts out. Dee Hamada and her mom, Alice Yamanishi, once owned Taniguchi Store on Beretania in McCully. Yamanishi made mochi, and when Taniguchi Store was closing in 2000, Akayama carried on her recipes.
The soft mochi, known as daifuku, comes with lots of fillings such as fresh strawberry, sweet potato haupia, chocolate cream, chocolate cream haupia, truffles and one of the most popular - lilikoi cheesecake. The chi chi dango, which is a soft mochi-flavored rice cake, comes in several flavors including lilikoi, blueberry, green tea, haupia and chocolate haupia.
A retired city parks and recreation employee, Akayama works on the business full time with the help of eight part-time employees. He appreciates the support of his wife, Kyoko, who volunteers wherever she can when she’s not working as a flight attendant. She’s also the chief taster of the recipes. Her thumbs up or down help determine how the product is made. The Aiea couple have three adult children and two grandchildren.
In 2003, the company had a fire, and the kitchen was destroyed, so they continued going to craft fairs and renting an alternate kitchen until they found the space they are in now. “We turned lemons into lemonade,” says Akayama, who also has a booth at the Saturday morning farmers’ market at Kapiolani Community College.
Made In Hawaii Foods is located at 98-718 Moanalua Road. The hours of operation are noon to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Tuesday. For more information, call 484-0052, or log onto www.madeinhawaiifoods.com
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