If you've been to the Big Island, odds are you are very familiar with the island's popular local grocery store chain: KTA Super Stores. Headquartered in Hilo, KTA Super Stores is the largest network of supermarkets on Hawaii's Big Island. The chain of 5 stores began over 95 years ago as a small 500-square-foot dried goods store owned by Koichi and Taniguchi. Their stores strongly support the concept of selling Hawaii grown food. Added to this are the Hawaiian values of lokahi, or working together, and the Japanese value of kaizen, or striving for improvement. Together, these values are reflected in the KTA Mountain Apple brand of local foods.
Over 1,500 years ago, the mountain apple was one of the 24 plants brought to Hawaii by the Polynesian voyagers. Like taro, coconut, breadfruit, and banana, the mountain apple was fundamental for the survival of ancient Hawaiians. The following are some of the locally grown foods sold at the KTA: Meyer lemon, papaya, argula, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, herbs, cucumbers, kabocha pumpkin, watermelon, tangerine, and cilantro.
By the Numbers
- 1916 - Year when KTA Super Stores started.
- 5 - Number of chain stores in Hawaii.
- 800 People employed by KTA Super Stores.
- 1979 - Year when they became the first supermarket in Hawaii to use UPC barcode scanners.
- 500 - Square footage of the original store.
*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here.