Big Island Bees

February, 2009

From the cozy town of Kealakekua, Big Island Bees is finding sweet success all over the globe. In the summer of 2007, the company joined a Hawaii delegation at the HOFEX Food Trade Show in Hong Kong, where buyers buzzed about its natural, organic Hawaiian honey. From then on, Big Island Bees started filling orders to Hong Kong and mainland China and hopes to begin distribution to Japan as well.

Big Island Bees was one of six Hawaii companies recognized last year by the U.S. Department of Commerce with an Export Achievement Certificate.

“Oddly enough, even though we’re a very small company, we found that the Hawaii market wasn’t big enough,” says Whendi Grad, who co-owns Big Island Bees with her brother Phil Grad. “By expanding to Asia, we were able to diversify our market — although we still aren’t anywhere close to realizing our full potential.”

Big Island Bees started four years ago as the packaging and labeling arm of Captain Cook Honey Co. Ltd, which is owned by Whendi Grad’s husband, Garnett Pruett, a fourth-generation commercial beekeeper. In 2008, the company increased its sales by almost 25 percent over 2007, selling more than 33,000 jars of honey.

“Made in Hawaii — that’s still our biggest selling point,” says Whendi Grad.

According to Phil Grad, Big Island Bees plans to continue increasing its presence in Hawaii, on the Mainland and throughout Asia by developing and offering products that are tailored to specific target markets within those areas. “We intend to emphasize the uniqueness and rarity of the honeys we produce,” he says.

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Shara Enay