No Imports Allowed

The Made In Hawaii Festival is sponsored by the Hawaii Food Industry Association, says Joe Detro, but the many non-food items from 420 exhibitors also offer good taste

Susan Sunderland
Friday - August 19, 2005
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Foodland director Ed Treschuk, Made
in Hawaii Festival chairman Joe Detro,
Foodland district manager Guy Wages
nd Kevin Toyama, R. Field manager,
iscuss new made-in-Hawaii liquor
roducts Maui Rum and Tedeschi

Calling all shoppers. It’s show time. Don your rubbah slippahs, grab the spouse and kids, and huddle for Hawaii’s ultimate buyer’s binge. It’s time for the supah market of Island goods, where every item has a Made in Hawaii label and, garans ballbarans, is produced or processed in our state. No imports allowed.

The 10th annual Made in Hawaii Festival runs Friday through Sunday, Aug. 19-21, at the Neal Blaisdell Center. The extravaganza features local artisans, merchants, entertainers and chefs. Step right up, and get your tickets. The show’s about to begin.

Your impresario for the Made in Hawaii Festival is Joe Detro, chairman of the Hawaii Food Industry Association (HFIA). As the trade group’s honcho, he heads an all-star cast that stages this exciting exhibition of locally made products.

Made in Hawaii Festival is produced by HFIA and sponsored by First Hawaiian Bank. It is supported by Hawaiian Airlines, Ohana Hotels, Budget Rent a Car, Matson and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

It’s been a decade since former state Rep. David Morihara came up with the idea of having a Hawaii-only products exhibition. From a modest beginning in 1995 of 80 exhibitors, the Made in Hawaii show has exploded to 420 exhibitors and attendance of more than 30,000 browsers and buyers. “It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new, what products are out there, and what’s available,” says Detro, whose full-time job is overseeing Foodland stores as senior vice president of sales and operations. “People like to buy Hawaii, to support Hawaii, and to help keep our economy going.”

Detro knows that as a fact, having worked at Foodland for the past five years and keenly observing local shoppers. Responding to consumer preferences, Foodland makes a conscious effort to buy locally made, processed and distributed products to fill its shelves. “When we can buy local, we do,” Detro says of Foodland’s commitment.

A walk through Foodland stores demonstrates this commitment, as one spots signs indicating where produce and products originate. Kahuku corn. Waialua asparagus. Kona coffee. Kauai cookies.

This philosophy actually dates back to 1948 when Maurice J. Sullivan, together with the Lau Kun family, opened Hawaii’s first modern supermarket at Market City in Honolulu. The company grew quickly, expanding across Oahu and later to Kauai in 1967, Maui in 1970, and the Big Island in 1971. There are 29 locations today with 2,000 employees.

Sully always envisioned Foodland as a family-run, community-focused company. His daughter, Jenai Sullivan Wall, is chairman of the board. Abel Porter, a former Detro colleague on the Mainland, is Foodland’s president-chief operating officer.

Sully started in the grocery business at age 17, sacking potatoes at the A&P Tea Company in Pennsylvania. Detro had a similar “not glamorous” start. He was 14, when he was hired as a bag boy at a hometown grocery store. Three months later, he was promoted to clean-up boy in the meat department.

He continued working in the grocery business through college, earning money to pay his tuition at Brigham Young University, where he majored in finance.

“I developed a passion for it,” Detro says of his grocery career. “It’s a dynamic business. There are a hundred moving parts. There are changes to deal with every day, and you can tell if you’re doing a good job based on sales.”

Detro developed an expertise in perishables, especially meats and seafood, which has been the focus of his career for the past 30 years. Before moving to Hawaii, he worked at Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers with annual sales of over $56 billion.

Detro is married (wife Nicole is also in the food trade) and has seven teenage children. So he knows a thing or two about feeding large families.

A new product showcase like the Made in Hawaii Festival gives buyers an opportunity to see what’s being created locally and to gauge consumer trends. That’s a big part of Detro’s role for Foodland. A visit to Foodland’s “prototype store” on Beretania is a look at supermarket re-tooling for the 21st century.

The driving force behind the supermarket evolution, according to Detro, is competition. Shoppers want greater variety, all in one place. The incorporating of healthy, whole, natural foods, for instance, is mainstreaming what was formerly considered specialty products. Foodland has a buyer that concentrates solely on this niche market.

Gourmet, specialty and imported foods are also in demand, according to Detro. His own son, who is an avid Food Network viewer, often requests special ingredients to fix what he sees on TV. While healthy

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