Shake it up

Hawaii residents are fortunate enough to live in a place where they can enjoy ice cream weather year-round. F’real milkshakes, a new product hitting Maui store shelves, offer residents a new way to enjoy their frozen treats, just in time for summer.

Two months ago, the 76 gas station at Maui Lani became the first store on Maui to install the milkshake machine, which makes various flavors of milkshakes, coffee drinks and smoothies. Since then, at least four other convenience stores have installed f’real machines of their own, including Pukalani Superette, Minit Stop in Wailuku and Uptown Chevron.

“You don’t have too many people offering milkshakes besides Burger King or McDonalds,” Maui Lani 76 General Manager Melanie Naparan said. “It’s a big hit because they (customers) get to do it themselves.”

She added that on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the wait for a milkshake or smoothie can take up to 30 minutes. Some customers buy more than 10 at a time, bringing them back home for family, she said. One f’real milkshake costs just under $5.

Each drink takes about a minute to blend, but people often take longer at the self-serve machine picking out flavors and consistency. Each person can tailor his or her drink to be less thick, regular thickness or more thick. Milkshake flavors include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mint chocolate and cookies and cream.

Here’s how it works: you grab a prepackaged cup from the refrigerator with the flavor of your choice, remove the lid, place the cup in the blender, select the thickness from three options on the touch-screen, wait for about a minute or so until your drink pops back out and is ready to be enjoyed.

“It’s just something different. . . . They (customers) are able to blend it to their thickness and the flavors are unique,” said Jerry Masaki, the general manager at Pukalani Superette, which just installed a f’real machine a couple of weeks ago. Without any prior marketing or advertising, the store sold more than 100 drinks on the first day, according to Masaki.

“This gives people freedom to use their own creativity,” he said.

Masaki admitted that initial start-up costs were steep – $13,000 for the machine including freight costs – but he said he’s confident the store will turn a profit.

“We’re excited. It’s a self-service product. It’s good quality,” he said. “It brings in the younger crowd, especially now in the summer when kids are out, but lots of adults are also buying it.”

There are 13 locations with f’real milkshake machines in Hawaii, according to a spokeswoman for the California-based company. The first machine was installed in March on Kauai at the Rainbow Gas Mart in Wailua.

“We’re trying to understand what it is about the customers in Hawaii to see why it (the milkshake product) is so popular,” F’real Foods spokeswoman Stephanie Brendel said.

The California-based company will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next week, though the product just came to Hawaii this year. There are more than 10,000 f’real milkshake machines across all states.

The Maui Lani 76 broke the national record last month for most f’real milkshakes sold in one day, with 711 drinks. While the record was again broken two weeks ago by a 7-Eleven in Honolulu, Brendel said she is excited about the market across all islands.

“People seem so accepting and loving of milkshakes, and we have a better milkshake than a lot of restaurants at just as good of a value. . . . We’re excited about bringing that to the Hawaiian market,” Brendel said.

Company officials said that F’real Foods will be debuting a new milkshake flavor, cake batter, scheduled to come out this summer.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at