King's Hawaiian looks beyond the bakery for growth opportunity

by Laurie Gorton and Dan Malovany
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TORRANCE, CALIF. — King’s Hawaiian wants to be more than a bakery.

“We’re looking to be a Hawaiian food company,” said Mark Taira, chief executive officer. “When it comes to new products, it may not be focused only on the bakery category. We’re looking for new items in other categories.”

Articulated in 2006, the company’s mission statement is to “deliver irresistible Hawaiian foods with aloha spirit that families love everywhere, every day.” You’ll note that nowhere in the statement does it mention bread, rolls or other baked foods. Rather, King’s Hawaiian wants to distance its premium products as far as possible from the highly competitive bread aisle.

“We don’t think of it as bread, we don’t price it as bread, and we don’t market it as bread,” explained John Linehan, executive vice-president. “It’s Hawaiian food.”

Mr. Taira described this focus as a natural evolution for the company, which started with its signature round loaf and then branched into rolls in response to consumer feedback.

“People had a difficult time using that round loaf, and it became intuitive to put dinner rolls in their hands,” he said.

Over the years, it’s added hot dog buns, hamburger buns, sub rolls and even sandwich bread. Although its newest production lines in the Oakwood, Ga., bakery were designed for greater versatility, much of the other prepared foods will likely be co-manufactured.

The company takes inspiration from the family’s wealth of authentic Hawaiian recipes, many of which are featured at its California restaurant. It also works with the nation’s biggest food product development firms to use world-class innovation methodologies to refine the recipes or create new Hawaiian foods for mass production.

Already, King’s Hawaiian is the nation’s largest Hawaiian foods company, said Mr. Linehan. The eventual goal, he added, is to spread the aloha spirit on a global basis.
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