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Sweet Deal: Corn syrup’s high price gives a boost to sugar's prospects

May 10, 2008
The Maui News
PUUNENE — With the price of corn and corn products steadily rising, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. is finding the niche for its specialty sugar is expanding.

HC&S and Driftwood Dairy, a Los Angeles milk supplier, announced Friday that Driftwood will use HC&S’ Maui Brand Natural Evaporated Cane Juice as a sweetener in place of high fructose corn syrup.

The announcement did not reveal the value of the contract or tonnage of sugar involved. But Driftwood said it found that it could use less sugar in its flavored milk products provided to schools in 16 school districts and 500 charter and private schools.

A registered dietitian with the dairy processor, Laura Trujillo, said the company began to reformulate its flavored milks — offered in chocolate, strawberry, orange and root beer — to utilize a more natural product that will help reduce obesity in schools.

Using the natural, unrefined sugar, produced by a single crystallization of sugar cane juice, Driftwood said it found it could reduce the sweeter mix in its flavored milks to 20 grams of sugar and 120 calories, from 25 grams and 140 calories with high fructose corn syrup.

“The feedback in test groups has been phenomenal,” she said.

For HC&S, the contract with Sweetener Products Inc. to provide sugar to Driftwood validates a $24 million investment in expanding production of food-grade sugar at its Puunene Mill.

“Securing this key West Coast customer for Maui Brand is evidence that HC&S’ diversification into specialty sugars is both timely and on target,” said Frank Kiger, HC&S general manager.

The Maui operation began marketing its specialty sugar, also known as turbinado sugar, in 1989. The sugar crystals retain some of the molasses that is otherwise drained from the cane juice in processing.

Sold as Maui Brand Natural Cane Sugar and Premium Maui Gold, the product is carried in retail shops in seven-ounce, one-pound and two-pound containers. HC&S also added a cookbook and T-shirts to the sales mix.

Kiger noted a number of Hawaii food manufacturers are also using the Maui Brand sugar, including Hawaiian Sun, Ito En and Island Maid fruit drinks.

“They’ve found value in knowing that Maui Brand contains no artificial additives or preservatives, is grown without insecticides and is certified Kosher,” he said.

HC&S is part of the Food Products Division of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., whose Matson Navigation unit transports most of the sugar from Maui to the C&H Sugar refinery in Crockett, Calif., to be refined into white sugar.

“We are teaming with our sister companies, Matson Navigation Company and Matson Integrated Logistics, to ensure well-timed transport of the crystallized sugar from Maui to California ports and further inland to manufacturing sites,” Kiger said.

Article Photos

Benito Bolante of Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar works with a one-ton bag of evaporated cane juice at the company’s Puunene location Friday afternoon. HC&S has announced plans to sell Maui Brand Natural Evaporated Cane Juice to Driftwood Dairy of Los Angeles.

The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo

 
 

 

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