Financially hurting Hawaii candy maker offers vendors a deal

HONOLULU (AP) — A financially hurting Hawaii candy maker known for a memorable slogan is trying to shore up its business by offering a deal to vendors as the company faces difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic's economic fallout.

Hawaiian Host Inc. has asked vendors to settle invoices with the 60-year-old producer of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The company, which trademarked the phrase “Hawaii’s gift to the world,” informed vendors it would settle past-due invoices at a discount of 75 cents per $1 of debt.

The recovered funds could satisfy the company's unpaid accounts and secure new investment capital, the company said.

In a letter last month explaining the offer, Hawaiian Host CEO Ed Schultz said bankruptcy was another possibility for the company, which has about 460 employees.

Tourism accounts for 65% of Hawaiian Host's business and the company said it cannot pay vendors on time because of state health restrictions affecting the tourism industry.

The company anticipates negative cash flow until the state achieved at least 10,000 tourist arrivals daily, Schultz said.

Hawaii Tourism Authority figures indicate there were about 2,000 daily trans-Pacific air passenger arrivals over the previous week.

Hawaiian Host received a $5 million to $10 million forgivable federal Paycheck Protection Program loan in April and a $30 million sale and leaseback of its Honolulu production facility in June.

Hawaiian Host officials did not immediately respond to requests seeking further comment on the recapitalization effort.

Hawaiian Host claims to be the original producer of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, producing more of the product at a premium quality level than anyone in the world.

The company’s founder, Mamoru Takitani, developed a recipe of blended chocolates with his wife, Aiko, and established Hawaiian Host in 1960 in Honolulu after buying and renaming Ellen Dye Candies.

The company acquired Hilo-based Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. five years ago for an undisclosed price.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.