By: Diane Ako
WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Dozens of Hawaii businesses are eagerly waiting to hear back from military buyers this weekend. More than 100 companies vying for a space on the commissary shelves attended the American Logistics Association Pacific Basin Expo on Friday to try to convince the buyers.
Dozens of vendors and thousands of products on display made this the largest military food fair yet, according to Patrick Nixon, the CEO and Director of the Defense Commissary Agency. "This is the Hawaii food show's 10th year in a row where we partner with local businesses and introduce locally made products to the military resale system. In particular, the Defense Commissary Agency."
The American Logistics Association is a voluntary, nonprofit organization of manufacturers, manufacturer's representatives, brokers, distributors, publishers, and other companies that sell or provide products and services to the military resale systems and MWR/Services. ALA uses the term "military resale systems" as a broad term that includes all military exchanges and commissaries, Department of State stores, Veterans Canteen Services, as well as all of the armed forces' Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) activities that involve a product or service.
The commissary is one of the largest grocery stores in the world. Last year it purchased more than $122 million of food and goods from Hawaii businesses. Nearly $7 million of that was locally produced. Nixon says, "We're looking for the best value and quality found everywhere in Hawaii and introduce that to the military population. You don't want to fly stuff in from the mainland when you can get it right here: quality products, great value."
A key figure in starting up this food expo was US Senator Daniel Akaka (D), on hand to cut the ribbon before the show. "We started with a dozen vendors here 10 years ago. Now we have more than a hundred vendors."
He says this boosts the state's economy and it's a way to share the aloha. "These small businesses are doing well through the commissaries. So everybody is really enjoying it and benefiting from it. This will expand the culture of Hawaii around the world for people to share and enjoy."