Local vendors offer their products at annual ALA Hawaii event

More than 70 companies offered samples of their products at the American Logistics Association (ALA) Hawaii show held Aug. 20.

More than 70 companies offered samples of their products at the American Logistics Association (ALA) Hawaii show held Aug. 20.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Assistant Editor, Ho’okele

The 17th annual American Logistics Association (ALA) Hawaii show took place Aug. 20 at the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki. The annual business-to-business show provides Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and Exchange officials the opportunity to taste-test local products and meet with Hawaii business owners before recommending products for commissary and exchange shelves.

More than 70 companies offered samples of products such as chocolate, coconut water, crackers, coffee, local-style noodles and baked goods to 38 buyers, directors and store managers.

“More than 166,000 military service members, retirees and family members live in Hawaii, making the commissary and exchange business a significant market for local companies,” said Sharon Zambo-Fan, ALA Hawaii Conference chairwoman.”

The first ALA Hawaii show was held in 1997.

“We only had about a dozen companies participating when we started,” said Zambo-Fan. “This year we have about 74. Each year it gets larger.”

After last year’s ALA Hawaii show, 140 new items were selected for inclusion in Oahu’s commissaries. The combined military exchanges also added 15 new companies and 150 new line items to their selection. Over the course of the show’s history, 2,232 local products have been added to commissary shelves. In 2013, commissaries in Hawaii purchased $8 million from Hawaii-based brands and $6.5 million in locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Eyvinne Umemoto, Pearl Harbor commissary store director, regularly attends ALA Hawaii looking for new products. He said he welcomes the opportunity to introduce local food items to service members and their families.

“When we do food demos and offer samples of local foods, it’s sometimes the first time they’ve tasted something,” he said. “Baked goods like butter mochi are really popular.”

Many service members are quite curious and open to trying new culinary delights. The four Oahu commissaries all have “Taste of Hawaii” sections to make it easier for patrons to try local foods.

“The military community has a diverse pallet,” said David Carey Jr., area director (Pacific) DeCA West. “They visit their local commissary and go to the ‘Taste of Hawaii’ section to try something new.”

The Navy Exchange is currently expanding its “Taste of Hawaii” section to offer an even greater selection of goods.

Patrick Nixon, ALA president, believes the ALA Hawaii show is a real benefit to local vendors, especially small ones.

“ALA brings the companies and the government together,” he said. “We help vendors navigate the workings of the government. It’s a great opportunity.”

Looking ahead to future ALA Hawaii shows, Nixon had one word to say.

“Bigger!”

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Category: News