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Hawaiian Sun finds a hit with powdered drinks

By Lee Cataluna

LAST UPDATED: 1:57 a.m. HST, Feb 27, 2011

How did any Hawaii resident ever leave home without this?

Last summer, Hawaiian Sun Products introduced a line of their beloved juice drinks in powdered form. The idea was to make the favorite island beverages more easily portable and exportable, like Tang for the astronauts.

The instant juice was an instant hit. The line had its debut at the Made in Hawaii show in August. Earl Kurisu, who handles international sales and marketing for Hawaiian Sun Products, said people went wild for the slim little packets that each make a quart of the sweet juice, perfect for every island-style backyard party, plate-lunch special and beachside picnic.

"The responses that we were receiving from our customers were great, comments like 'OMG!,' 'Finally!' and 'Do you know how much you are going to save me in postage?!'" (OMG, were people actually mailing six-packs of guava nectar?)

People didn't just scoop up the packets of Passion Orange, Guava Nectar, Lilikoi Passion and Iced Tea mixes; they wanted to tell stories about the people who would be getting the drink mixes in the mail.

"All the wonderful stories they shared about family and friends living on the mainland, students away at college, loved ones serving the military, and their efforts to share 'home' with them," Kurisu said. "It has been awesome!"

Hawaiian Sun juice is one of those hallmarks of home that loom large when you're away. Other things can be mailed, appropriated or approximated: Sushi restaurants are now ubiquitous, poi is freeze-dried and big mainland grocery chains sell arare as "Asian-style trail mix." But Hawaiian Sun juices were like the empty circle on the luau tray.

The stroke of genius came during a company brainstorming session in 2006. After the initial idea, it took 18 months of testing and tinkering to get the mixes for the four flavors.

"It was important that we got it right and as close to the original juices as possible," Kurisu said.

Of course, a crucial element in the final product is water, so if your darling college student is stuck on a campus with funky pipes or living in one of those towns where what comes out of the tap just doesn't taste good, advise them to go for bottled water to mix the mix.

The powder drink mixes are sold at many Hawaii stores (ABC Stores, Big Save, Don Quijote, Foodland, Hilo Hattie, KTA, Longs Drugs, Tamura's, Times and Waianae Store, to name a few), but local demand has been so strong that Hawaiian Sun Products hasn't yet gotten around to selling the drink mixes on the mainland, though that has been their intention. Kurisu said, "Our customers in Hawaii have been our greatest ambassadors and distributors."

Lee Cataluna can be reached at

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