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The Hawaii Business 20 for the Next 20

(page 18 of 21)

    Photo: Mark Arbeit

Claire Sullivan, age 29

Coordinator for community and vendor relations, Whole Foods Market in Hawaii

It goes without saying that Claire Sullivan has a garden.

Sullivan has been a key player in developing the slow-food movement in Hawaii while supporting and nurturing the state’s farmers in building a sustainable future.

A graduate of the London School of Economics, with a master’s degree in nature, society and environmental policy from Oxford University, she has a broad knowledge of the day-to-day realities of food sourcing in today’s global economy. At the same time, as a graduate of Punahou School and former manager of special projects and head of sustainable diversified research and farming efforts for Maui Land and Pineapple, she sees Hawaii’s agricultural future as the intersection of environmental, economic, social and cultural concerns.

“How do we live in the world most appropriately in terms of our environmental impact and our impact on one another, and how do we have a broad economy with a healthy sustainable food base?” she asks. Her answer: Build a system that helps all farmers, large and small, with supportive market policies.

At Whole Foods’ Kahala store, 33 percent of the products are locally sourced, and, on Maui, it’s 44 percent. When the Kahala store opened, says Sullivan, the store handled products from about 100 local vendors. Now it has more than 250.

“We’re bringing in new products all the time, and actively seeking out more suppliers, particularly on the organic side,” she says. “Right now the demand is much greater than the supply. It’s good news for the farmers. But it’s also challenging. They’re dealing with incredibly high costs of land, challenges with labor and water supplies, challenges with distribution systems.”

Gary Maunakea-Forth, of MA‘O Farms, calls Sullivan a bright spot in the commitment to a sustainable Hawaii. “Claire has played an integral role in Whole Foods Market’s initiatives to promote a self-sufficient state through partnership programs such as Kanu Hawaii’s Eat Local Challenge … ” says Maunakea-Forth. “Since Whole Foods Market has come to Hawaii, we have seen a direct impact on local stores sourcing their products locally, which we directly attribute in no small part to Claire.”


1. Randy Baldemor
2. James Bennett
3. Kalei Cadinha-Puaa
4. Kainoa Daines
5. Matthew Delaney
6. Mark Duda
7. Charles Hew-Len
8. Michael Kaleikini
9. Daniel Leuck
10. Jennifer Li Dotson
11. Bryan Luke
12. Wesley Machida
13. Makani Maeva
14. Cameron Nekota
15. Robert Piper
16. Carol Reimann
17. Claire Sullivan
18. Michael Tresler
19. Raymond Vara, Jr.
20. Aulani Wilhelm


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