Each island has its own unique products, and in order to be designated “Made in Hawai‘i,” there are guidelines that have to be met by creators in the making of their respective products.
The official program of the County of Kaua‘i is “Kaua‘i Made,” and Melissa Sugai is the one who ensures all products designated as Kaua‘i Made meet the guidelines.
“The program has been around for about 12 years,” shares Sugai, “and I’ve been with the program about six years. In that time, I’ve met many Kaua‘i residents and have had the opportunity to sit and hear their stories about their products. I conduct all the interviews to assure the product is made on Kaua‘i, by the people of Kaua‘i.”
She also goes into the field to ensure the logo is being used properly so that the program’s integrity is kept intact. With about 145 members from product makers to retail members, she has a busy schedule. Retailers support the program by selling Kaua‘i Made member products in their stores.
When asked if she has a favorite product, Sugai is diplomatic. “I don’t have a favorite as all are unique products, but my favorite part about the program is sitting with each applicant and hearing their story of how they created their product, whether it’s from growing up surrounded by it, or later in their years finding their niche. This is how we verify the value of the product by their story. If you make the product, you can tell the story.”
Sugai is currently researching the Made in Hawai‘i and Made in Maui programs as they’re both doing well and able to sponsor a hugely successful event every year. She says that Kaua‘i Made is run by the County of Kaua‘i; Made in Maui by the Maui Chamber of Commerce; and Made in Hawai‘i is backed by First Hawaiian Bank and The Hawai‘i Food Industry Assoc. along with big sponsors. She’s hoping Kaua‘i Made will be able to do the same down the line.
By choosing to buy local—to buy Kaua‘i Made—know that you’re supporting and providing opportunities for growth for our local creators, growers and producers, as well as supporting our island economy. And that’s a very good thing.