Kihei-based Hawaii Taro will soon be able to expand its products into Mainland Whole Food Markets thanks to funding from the grocer’s Local Producer Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans to help small food businesses expand. Hawaii Taro is the first Hawaii company to receive a low-interest loan through the program.
The company produces frozen “Maui Taro Burgers,” which are made of all natural ingredients. The “burgers” are made with 100 percent Hawaii-grown taro. They have no meat, wheat, soy additives or gluten. The product is also vegan and non-GMO.
“We are developing healthy products made from all natural ingredients while we work to preserve the beauty and cultural history of our island home,” said Robert Mitnick, founder and president of Hawaii Taro. “Our goal is to introduce taro to the world through food products and exports which encourage sustainable agriculture and environmentally sensitive, minimal impact development. With Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program facilitating our expansion into stores beyond Hawai`i, we are on our way.”
The $17,500 loan will help the company purchase new oven rack, mixers and other kitchen equipment needed to expand into Mainland Whole Food Markets.
Hawaii Taro was founded by Mitnick in 1997. Mitnick’s goal when starting the company was to produce a food which was a wholesome alternative to the various soy products on the market while using local, Hawaii-grown produce as its staple ingredients.
“We are delighted to support Hawaii Taro’s growth with this loan and the opportunity to expand distribution to many Whole Foods Market stores on the continent,” said Claire Sullivan, Hawaii coordinator of purchasing and public affairs for Whole Foods Market. “Hawaii Taro is committed not only to making delicious, nutrient-rich food, but also to honoring and perpetuating the agricultural heritage of Hawaii. It is an honor to partner with founder Robert Mitnick in support of this vision.”
In making the Maui Taro Burger, the company uses the entire plant–root, stalk and leaves. The purple color comes from the same substance that gives red wine its color and anti-oxidant properties. Taro has been a Hawaiian staple for a thousand years. It’s high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, an excellent source of potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin A. It is also non-allergenic and low in fat, and it has a low glycemic index.
Whole Foods Market has pledged to grant up to $25 million in low-interest loans to independent producers. To date, the program has funded $10 million in loans, supporting more than 155 companies’ capital expenditures.
To apply for a loan through Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program, producers must meet Whole Foods Market’s strict Quality Standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed, low interest rates. To view online video testimonials and to learn more about the Local Producer Loan Program, visit wholefoodsmarket.com/loans.
Image of Man with a Yoke Carrying Taro by Joseph Strong: Honolulu Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons