June 06--Maui Preserved LLC started because Maleta Van Loan makes really good hot sauce, according to husband Anthony LaBua-Keiser.
The sauce "really knocked it out of the park with friends and family, and we thought we could turn it into a business," he said.
The homespun hobby officially became a business in June 2010, "and we started selling product six or seven months later" at farmers markets and the like, he said.
Everybody has a family member, neighbor or co-worker who makes pickled onions or pickled mangoes, or preserves fruit of one stripe or another. The motivation often is because they had a bumper crop and the item was pickled or preserved out of a sense of the Japanese word "mottainai," or "waste not, want not."
To LaBua-Keiser and Van Loan, sourcing local ingredients for their pickled and preserved produce is a step toward food security for the shipping-dependent islands.
Also, your pickling auntie probably doesn't have a seal of quality from the state Department of Agriculture, as Maui Preserved LLC does.
In addition to its Hot Hot Sauce, the Smokey Habanero sauce is the company's spiciest, while the Thai Chile Hot Sauce has a medium-level heat with an earthy finish that comes from Hawaii coffee.
Products sell for $6 to $20 on the company website, but retail prices might vary.
Maui Preserved pickles Maui onions, beets, pohole ferns and strawberries, and makes orange marmalade, Maui onion pepper jam, roasted tomato sauce and pineapple cane syrup. The product list goes on with preserved Haiku lemons, Smoked Peru Pepper Sauce and Sweet and Spicy Pineapple preserves, which includes a bit of Hawaiian chili pepper because "we wanted it to be palatable for everybody, even the spice-averse," LaBua-Keiser said. The bit of chili "offers a nice bit of heat after you taste the pineapple."
The company cures and sells vanilla beans and offers vanilla bean powder made from the whole bean, including the so-called "caviar."
The powder is $20 for 1 ounce on the company website. It is costlier than grocery-store vanilla extract, but the Maui Preserved vanilla bean powder packs 12 times the potency of extract, LaBua-Keiser said.
The conversion works out to using a quarter-teaspoon of vanilla bean powder instead of a half-tablespoon of extract.
LaBua-Keiser will prepare pancake batter using just a tad and set it in the refrigerator overnight to steep; then he gives the batter a gentle stir before griddling up vanilla-infused pancakes the next morning. Bakers can do the same with cookie dough, "and you can put it in your coffee," he said.
For savory applications such as with pork, chicken or shellfish, "I recommend people start with just a pinch" so the vanilla doesn't overwhelm the dish, he said. Another pinch added to the rice cooker could offer complementary notes in rice served with the protein.
The couple started "with a large product line and honed it down to nine items," LaBua-Keiser said.
Many retail buyers find their next popular products at farmers markets, and that's where Maui Preserved connected with R. Field,
"It's difficult to do food manufacturing in Hawaii, so we really need to find the top markets and match every buyer with our products," LaBua-Keiser said.
Because people "are coming back to eating seasonally," the company also prepares seasonal items sold by specialty retailers such as Red Pineapple in Ward Centre and other smaller store environments where employees can "take a little more time to explain why this is only available now," he said.
The couple came to Hawaii five years ago, and LaBua-Keiser's culinary background is a big help to the family business. Having worked in fine dining in New York, he still works as a chef for private events.
The two don't set up booths at as many events as they used to because doing so with their 1-year-old daughter might be a bit of a challenge, but they will be at the inaugural Made in Maui County Festival in November and their products are widely available at farmers markets and retail stores.
The next big thing for Maui Preserved is working with other small, so-called micro-enterprises in the food business.
The company is using its experiences in the food manufacturing industry to help clients with various aspects of "food entrepreneurship," from how to scale up production from the home kitchen level to "getting the legalese" right on a label, to helping people get equipment and more, LaBua-Keiser said.
"In 10 years I'd love to see a portfolio of 20 or 30 businesses that are successful, that we helped to get there. That would be amazing," he said.
Maui Preserved LLC
P.O. Box 81443
Haiku, HI 96708
WHERE TO BUY
LOCATIONS GUIDE: http://www.mauipreserved.com/#!store_locations/cl69
>> R. Field Wine Co. at select Foodland stores
>> Red Pineapple
>> Whole Foods Market
>> Ah Fook's
>> Mana Foods
>> Wailea Wine
>> Living Foods Market & Cafe
"Buy Local" runs on Aloha Fridays. Reach Erika Engle at 529-4303, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter as @erikaengle.