Hawaii Whole Foods stores first to award local suppliers

By Erika Engle

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 11, 2013

Whole Foods Market stores in Hawaii are the first in the 340-store chain to present state-level supplier awards.

Austin, Texas-based, publicly traded Whole Foods Inc., founded in 1980, launched chain-wide supplier awards last year.

Arizona stores allow customer votes for favorite wines, but the Hawaii stores are the first to give state awards in several categories.

In keeping with many if not most 808-state residents’ philosophy that Hawaii is the most special place on the planet, the chain’s Hawaii stores, now numbering three in Kahala, Kailua and on Maui, launched the inaugural ‘ONO Awards this summer.

Appreciation is “a big part of our culture at Whole Foods Market, and the ‘ONO Awards are a new way for us to publicly appreciate outstanding local producers who are helping to move our food landscape forward,” said Dabney Gough, marketing supervisor at Whole Foods Market Kahala, who originated the local awards program.

Behind each awardee’s success is “passion, commitment and creativity” in building a unique business, said Claire Sullivan, Whole Foods Hawaii market coordinator for purchasing and public affairs.

Officials said the first local Whole Foods Market supplier recognition program allowed customers and employees to vote on the winners. The People’s Choice Award went to the Indigenous Soap Co. of Honolulu. It makes soaps using native medicinal herbs and oils from around the world, according to its website.

The Team Member Pick of the Year, as selected by store employees, was Ma’o Organic Farms in Waianae, which also won the inaugural Hall of Fame award as a longtime producer that made significant contributions to the local food economy. The farms’ programs have a broad reach, especially on Oahu, and have received much news coverage for innovative efforts toward returning to the land. Even first lady Michelle Obama paid them a visit.

Maui Brewing Co. won the Innovation Award for creativity in product, packaging or business practices; and the Sustainability Award was presented to Mana Ai, for its hand-pounded, paiai, or poi-making practices that preserve the land, support the local economy and promote food or product self-sufficiency.


Maui-based Adoboloco hot sauces won Best New Product. Its website tells of a fully integrated farm where little, if anything, goes to waste, never mind a landfill.


Oahu-based OnoPops LLC was selected as Partner of the Year for, in the words of the award’s criteria, exemplifying collaborative win-win partnerships outlined in Whole Foods Market’s core values.

OnoPops Chef-owner Joshua Lanthier-Welch and his brother Joe formed the company three years ago with the mindset of making their product with Hawaii-grown or Hawaii-made products where possible, that were organic whenever possible. Ninety-five percent of its supplies are locally sourced, while the remaining 5 percent of ingredients are not available locally, such as organic mochi flour.

After spending roughly $10,000 on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety certification, OnoPops was a presenter at Whole Foods Market’s recent SPROUT program, staged for farmers and food producers interested in getting their products to market but not just to Whole Foods.

As part of the “appreciation” award, the businesses were given stickers trumpeting the awards, and these days, in addition to a sticky-backed piece of paper or vinyl to put on a product package or storefront, a sticker also can be displayed on a website, perhaps as an icon for a company’s Facebook page, Twitter feed or Pinterest gallery, to name a few common online icons.


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Sep 11, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) —

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