Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Local Hawaiian Business's: Waialua Soda Works

       I found it very interesting to read some of the local Hawaiian takes on a local Hawaiian product that is being made with it's own resources at hand. I also found it interesting that a small business is trying to make claims that they are not for the money, while that seems to be all that the company is working towards. I originally found this bottle of Waialua Soda Works soda in my boyfriends grandparent's house. He was told that this soda can no longer be bought, the original soda that is. The story he was told was that Waialua Soda Works was bought out by Pepsi. This seems to be a common misconception, because Pepsi did not buy Waialua Soda Works, they helped fund it and wanted a piece of the action, that is sure! So, I was wondering why my boyfriend, and all other Hawaiians he knows, believe that Pepsi owns Waialua Soda Works. It seems as though the concept was created over the dispute of selling the land's products over seas as a mass product, which essentially represents Hawaii as a market place and is exploiting itself.

“Waialua Soda Works is like a vacation in a bottle, people want to go to Hawaii,” said Greg Stroh. “What sets Waialua Soda Works apart from every one else is the Hawaiian ingredients and the spot on packaging. I’m looking forward to helping Waialua Soda Works overcome some of battles I’ve experienced through the years, and I want to help this brand grow.”  -Hawaii Magazine

About Waialua Soda Works
Founded in 2003 by Waialua residents Karen and Jason Campbell, Waialua Soda Works’ recipes are inspired by the elements familiar to the Hawaiian Islands. Reviving a local soda bottling tradition that goes back more than 100 years, the company uses only clear glass bottles, pure cane sugar, and natural flavors to make its sodas. The products feature local ingredients such as Maui Brand natural white cane sugar, Big Island vanilla, and honey from Kauai. Waialua Soda Works is owned and operated from a warehouse in the historic town of Waialua, located on the famous North Shore of Oahu.

Waialua Soda Works is available in a 12 oz glass bottle and in 6 unique flavors: Lilikoi, Mango, Pineapple, Root Beer, Vanilla Cream, and Kona Red. Waialua Soda Works is currently available at over 1000 retail locations on the mainland in CA, AZ, NV, OR, & TX: Whole Foods Market Southern Pacific Region, Bristol Farms, BevMo, HEB, Central Market, Cost Plus World Market – Nationwide, and is available at every major grocery chain in Hawaii including Costco & Target.

"We've received funding from an equity capital firm out of Honolulu, which is good because it stays in the islands," said Jason Campbell, who, with his wife, Karen, established Waialua Soda Works in 2003. Campbell did not disclose the dollar figure.

The local investors are led by Tradewind Capital Group Inc., whose officers include some minority investors in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser -- but it's not as if they tipped us off to this story. They didn't.

"They (the local investors) did not purchase us," Campbell said, but a new company, North Shore Beverage Co. Ltd., was formed to reflect the investment.

The Waialua Soda that is sold in Hawaii is made by the Campbells in Waialua using natural, local ingredients. They ship those ingredients to a mainland bottler for mainland sales.

Kona Red, the newest flavor, is made from antioxidant-rich coffee cherries, using the fruit -- not the bean, from whence coffee is produced.

Waialua Soda Works' new financial heft will enable it to increase production and expand sales and distribution channels, Campbell said. The goal is to "saturate Hawaii and then do a heavy focus on the West Coast, in particular from Seattle down to San Diego," with a concentration on "Los Angeles beach cities."

It was important to find investors locally, but not just people with deep pockets, Campbell said. "They're successful business people and know quite a bit much more than we do." For the mom-and-pop soda-pop makers, the investment represents "not only money, but smart money."
Bottles must be imported, just as they were a century ago in that heyday of Hawaii bottling. Glass remains the company's biggest expense.

The soda wholesales for $1 a bottle; 35 cents of that is the cost of the bottle. A pallet of 4,300 bottles costs just under $900, but shipping from the Oregon factory is another $600, plus $100 an hour for a forklift driver to make the delivery.

"It's probably the most expensive soda to make in the United States," Jason says.

It would be more economical to do the bottling on the mainland, Karen acknowledges. "That's the first question people ask: Do you really make it here, or do you make it in California and ship it here?"
But the company's identity is tied up in the soda being Hawaii-made. "That's why we kind of bite the bullet on the cost."

These sodas-in-glass are boutique products similar to microbrews among beers. A number of mainland bottlers, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, have proven their appeal to a higher-end niche market willing to pay $2 or more per bottle retail for something classier than Coke. Think Henry Weinhard's Rootbeer.

"As long as people are willing to pay that price," Jason says, "I can make it here."
The Campbells based their business in Waialua "because we love the feel of this town," Karen says. Plus, the old sugar mill, the town's principal landmark, is good karma -- sugar being the main ingredient in sodas.
"Run by local people, for the Hawaiian market. If you have to drink soda, buy from Waialua Soda, not the local Pepsi or Coke bottlers." -Anonymous Blogger

"Well, transplanted mainlanders. And hopefully their reach will extend beyond the islands." -Anonymous Blogger
"I am soured on pepsi:
When they had that big corporate convention, and paid the strolling bones their exhorbitant fee to perform, (when they also had their aloha stadium concert, which i was happy to attend, 5 rows from da stage, even...) on Hawaii island, pepsi painted their corporate colors and logo on lava rock that stretched along the road or path to the site. -Booo. auwe. and hope they are kahuna'ed." -Anonymous Blogger

"Then I say everybody who lives in Hawai'i who comes to read HT should go out and support this company. THIS is the kind of company Hawai'i needs...located in Hawai'i, run by local people, for the Hawaiian market. If you have to drink soda, buy from Waialua Soda, not the local Pepsi or Coke bottlers. And keep buying their product until (or if) they get bought out by one of the majors. That, unfortunately, is the fate of most small successful companies." -Anonymous Blogger

Kaeliann Hulett

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