Prior to COVID-19, the Department of Education was the main customer of Hawai'i 'Ulu Producers Cooperative through their 'Aina Pono Farm to School program, which provided fresh local food to students at all 256 public schools across the state of Hawai'i. When COVID-19 caused schools to close in March 2020 this statewide program was halted.
By April 2020 co-op management understood that it was time to diversify HUPC’s markets, including through development of a functional online store to increase demand from household buyers interested in ordering food online. The team brainstormed creative ways of making their product line – previously designed for commercial and institutional foodservice – more accessible to Hawai'i families and came up with a series of small and large “food boxes” incorporating minimally processed, steamed frozen staples with ready-to-eat 'ulu products such as nondairy chocolate mousse and 'ulu hummus as well as products from other Hawai'i producers.
I would highly recommend Innovate Hawaii to other businesses looking to build their online presence. Working with marketing professionals through this program has allowed us to learn best practices in online sales and digital marketing, and to discover new concepts and tools for e-commerce, which we will continue to implement and refine now and into the future. We have gained immense insight into e-commerce and how to leverage social media and email marketing for our business. The Innovate Hawaii team was instrumental in helping us develop this aspect of our business.