Recap: 2017 HCCA Conference

The Hawaii Cacao and Chocolate Association convened in Hilo, Hawaii March 11-12 for its annual conference. Over 60 participants attended from around Hawaii and the Mainland.

The weekend activities began with farm tours at Hamakua Chocolate Farm followed by a visit to the Kazemaru’s OLA Kai farm and lunch at chocolate maker Tom Sharkey’s house. The afternoon included a visit to Mahilani farm on the hillside above Hilo. There, we had the chance to see not only the farm but also the post-harvest processing facility and their emerging chocolate factory. Participants also enjoyed a cacao/chocolate inspired dinner afterwards.

The conference convened with the annual HCCA membership meeting on Sunday, March 11th at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo where the membership also elected the Board of Directors and officers for the coming year (see Election brief for details).  HCCA President Gunars Valkirs also presented other business including a review of the finances of HCCA and the accomplishments of the past year.

Following the business meeting, participants enjoyed a number of informative presentations outlined below and concluded with the traditional capstone event of chocolate tasting and wine pairings.

Check out a video recap of the Conference produced by Manoa Chocolate! 

2017 Conference Presentations:

  • Gunars Valkirs – A presentation about the newly enacted Dept. of Agriculture Rules for Hawaii-Grown Cacao and Hawaiian Chocolate Products. Examples of proper and improper labeling and the state law for Made in Hawaii products were discussed.
  • Matt Caputo – Cheese shops can't fill their cases without cheese distributors. Bottle shops need wine distributors. Chocolate is no different. Matt Caputo, president of our nation's largest craft chocolate distributor, A Priori Specialty Foods, gave a retailer's perspective on the important role only distributors can play and discussed the most important predictor of success: packaging.
  • Packint Chocolate Machines spoke about the current trends around the world. By supplying equipment, Packint has the chance to be in touch with everybody, from farmers that struggle to give a higher value to their cocoa, to US chocolate makers, to investors, to big industry. He also spoke about how better technology can improve the small-medium scale bean to bar industry, and the common path of many small chocolate makers trying to grow up.
  • Dylan Butterbaugh spoke about his experiences in growing his chocolate company, Manoa Chocolate, from small to medium scale, going global, and the lessons he has learned.
  • Colin Hart, a cacao farmer and graduate student, who is leading the way toward better cacao in East Hawaii, discussed local initiatives on the Big Island
  • Skip Bittenbender, UH professor, cacao advocate, and HCCA Special Advisor, presented his annual survey of cacao growers and the results to date of the UH variety trial.
  • Mitchell Lee Marks of San Francisco State University presented the initial findings of a multi-year research project assessing the start-up of a new cacao farm with the objective, among others, of providing opportunities for Native Hawaiians to develop entrepreneurial skills.
  • Dan O’Doherty spoke about his experiences in improving harvest and post-harvest processing and lessons learned from all parts of the cacao world.
  • Derek Lanter spoke on starting a chocolate/agri-tourism business in New Mexico that features Hawaii chocolate.
  • Dr Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD, Professor, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, spoke on cacao’s Medicinal Uses and Current Scientific Evidence for Beneficial Health Effects.