KUNIA (HawaiiNewsNow) - They're little in size, but they pack a big punch.
Hawaiians discovered, long ago, that kukui nuts have a variety of health benefits. Macadamia nuts do, too. In our continuing series, "Small Business in Hawaii Works", one local company is spreading its brand of aloha all over the world.
Mississippi native Matthew Papania is nuts about his job.
"This is what we squeeze the macadamia oil out of," Papania says as he stands in front of a large cartload of broken nuts.
Papania is president of Oils of Aloha – a locally-owned, boutique business located in the old Del Monte property in Kunia. The company specializes in macadamia and kukui nut products.
"Kukui is a very unique product, but we think it has quite a lot of benefits," says Papania. "The macadamia has quite a lot of benefits, also."
Kukui nut oil penetrates deeply - helping relieve skin irritants, like eczema or psoriasis. Macadamia oil is found in many top-of-the-line cosmetics and is also considered a healthy cooking oil. Barbara Gray owns the company with her husband and says it's important to buy and sell local.
Gray explains, "Being born and raised here, I've always had interest, of course, in island products and island things."
About two years ago, they moved from Waialua to this 16,000 square foot facility. In it, they've created a sophisticated process of presses, filters, tubes, and tanks that turn a mixture of cracked pieces of nuts into a refined oil, included in a variety of products. None of the raw nuts goes to waste. If they're not making oil with it, the excess is used for animal feed, smoke chips, or exfoliate.
Gray says diversifying has helped them in a down economy. "Having a bulk business and a product business, I think that's kept us growing."
They ship big containers of oil to cosmetic companies around the world and sell their own line of products in stores.
70 year old Marietta Siangco has worked here more than half her life and has done every job from picking nuts to packing products. She says, "(If) your boss is nice, you stay longer." I asked her, "And you enjoy working here?" Marietta answers, "Uh-huh!"
Loyal employees and specialty products have helped Oils of Aloha prosper - even as the economy continues to be a tough nut to crack.