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Hawaii’s Big Island Flavor Steams into the Canadian Market

The company prides itself on handpicking all of its coffee cherries. (Photo credit: Hawaii Exports International)

The company prides itself on handpicking all of its coffee cherries. (Photo credit: Hawaii Exports International)

Hawaii Exports International (HEI) of Honolulu has successfully introduced its award-winning Kona and Ka’u coffees to the Canadian market with the support of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Canada, the FAS-funded Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA).

Michael Rakieten, managing director of HEI, said, “Canada was an easy choice for the company’s first export market because of the geographical proximity to Hawaii and the common language and business practices.”

Working with the HDOA since 2009, HEI made its first contact with FAS in February 2010 to learn more about exporting opportunities in Canada. FAS assisted HEI by providing marketing and regulatory information about exporting its products to Canada.

In October 2010, with assistance from WUSATA and funding through USDA’s Market Access Program, HEI participated in a specialty foods buying mission to Canada. This trade event provided an opportunity for HEI to meet with interested Canadian buyers and distributors. The company’s participation helped secure a business partnership with a Canadian distributor, which enabled HEI to make an initial sale of $4,500 and outline a market entry strategy for Canada.

Since that mission, the continued support of FAS and WUSATA has helped HEI’s sales to Canada reach $35,000 in both 2010 and 2011. The company is now working on expanding distribution throughout Canada.

One of HEI’s coffee farms sits in front of one of Hawaii’s majestic mountains. (Photo credit: Hawaii Exports International)

One of HEI’s coffee farms sits in front of one of Hawaii’s majestic mountains. (Photo credit: Hawaii Exports International)

Rakieten emphasizes that HEI’s export sales not only benefit the company, but support the growers, roasters, processors and others involved in Hawaii’s coffee production. The coffee farms HEI works with vary in acreage and number of employees, ranging from 18-125 acres and 4-100 employees. Based on its success in Canada, HEI is now looking to develop other markets around the globe, including China, Korea and Germany. By expanding their business into the international market, this company is doing its part to create more jobs here at home and achieve the President’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014.

Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion. Canada is currently the United States’ second leading agricultural export market.

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