HONOLULU -- Seventy local Hawaii businesses hope to land some space on commissary and military exchange store shelves at installations, here.
All displayed their products and services at the 2019 Daniel K. Akaka American Logistics Association Hawaii Food Show and Conference, here, Aug. 13, amid a crowd of more than 75 buyers from the Defense Commissary Agency and the military exchanges.
To date, more than 3,500 vendor items have established a market within military stores, said retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, interim director and CEO of DeCA, and CEO of Navy Exchange Service Command.
"By connecting Hawaii businesses to a larger market and allowing them to form lasting partnerships within the military community, the ALA Food Show has helped (Hawaii's) businesses and communities grow," said the representative for Sen. Brian Schatz.
Sen. Mazie Hirono's rep added, "Because of this relationship, Hawaii entrepreneurs have the opportunity to feature their unique products around the world."
The food show honors the late former senator because he brought together Hawaii businesses 22 years ago to "share the talent, innovation and quality of goods" produced here in Hawaii. Congressman Ed Case's representative added that Akaka hoped to "share the unique tastes, culture and aloha spirit of Hawaii-made products with military patrons."
Every year, a core of about 50 existing companies come back with new items, explained host Sharon Zambo-Fan. About 20 brand new companies, which have not sold to the military before, come to showcase their goods. They also have non-food items, like gift apparel, T-shirts and novelties.
Brad McMinn, store director, Schofield Commissary, normally picks up about 10-15 new vendors. Another positive, since vendors are local businesses, their distribution systems can react to changes in the market pretty quickly. Plus, they don't usually have logistical challenges, said Chris Holifield, general manager, Hawaii Exchange, like some products from the mainland.
Akaka's daughter, Millannie K.A. Mattson, said her father worked with former DeCA manager Rick Page to bring together the commissaries, exchanges, local food vendors and farmers.
"It's been a labor of love," said Page, now the senior vice president, Customer Services, Coastal Pacific Food Distributors. "The senator had been very encouraging of the commissaries and exchanges to engage in outreach with local businesses, to improve the partnership between public-private enterprises. That opened doors with the chamber of commerce, local farmers, with lots of local businesses, so the idea of the food show came up."
Today, the ALA food show "protects, preserves and enhances the benefit," said Marty Johnson, chairman of its board.