A day in the life of Hawaii’s last pineapple cannery
A little less than a decade ago it was hard to imagine Hawaii without a pineapple cannery. Now in a new millennium, in a new economy, it is equally difficult to believe that one still exists. But just a 15-minute drive from Kahului Airport sits the Maui Pineapple Company’s cannery, defying the odds.
|Fruits of their labor: Work and the day begin at the Maui Pineapple Company.|
Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc. (AMEX: MLP), first organized in 1909, is one of the state’s largest landowners with 28,600 acres, employing approximately 2,040 people. But since the 1970s, the "land" of Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc. (No. 46 on this year’s Top 250) has dominated the company’s earnings and identity. In early 1999, Steve Case, the world’s most famous Internet islander, bought a controlling interest in the struggling company, which includes the Kapalua resort’s two hotels, three golf courses and luxury homes and condominiums.
|Industrial View: The hulking facade of the cannery.|
|Workers take a well-deserved break.|
But almost forgotten is the company’s pineapple operations and its little cannery that could. (It is almost fitting that the company’s harvest is placed into unmarked cans to be later labeled by a mainland supermarket chains across the country.) From sun up to sun down, the Maui Pineapple Company, Ltd. is in full gear, whether it’s the field workers gathering pineapples, the technicians testing levels of the fruit’s acidity in the lab, or the men operating the heavy machinery within the warehouse.
|Field workers pick the pineapple by hand.|
But there are many challenges in the future. In 1999, pineapple revenue was $94.5 million, down 3.2 percent from 1998. Volume in all areas of the company’s pineapple division was also down and the company says the decline was in part due to a planned reduction in cultivated acreage. The company has also experienced problems with dry weather conditions for the past five years. Finding the water resources to keep the plantation alive has been challenging, yet thanks to sound agricultural practices and irrigation, crop productions improved from 1998.
|Machines cut fruit into familiar shapes.|
Still, looking toward tomorrow is the key to the company’s survival. Last year Maui Pineapple made advancements with their freshly cut pineapple distribution and has created a pineapple salsa, which has received an enthusiastic response from retailers. This year the company says it plans to continue improving product quality, reducing operations costs as well as improving fruit and juice recovery. And tomorrow is another day and another sunrise.
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