Maui Business

Maui Food Entrepreneurs Innovate Plant-Based Food

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On Thursday, April 4, 2019, four of Maui’s most innovative food businesses walked away with top awards at the Maui Food Industry X-celerator Program seventh “Pitch” event hosted at the University of Hawai’i Maui College.

Entire Cohort # 7 Class Photo w/ Pitch Judges. Back Row L-R: Jessie Ibanez, Tamura’s Markets, Eri Cruz, Salsa Cruz, Ginny DeMaio, Intastella Jella, Nick Seipel, THNC, William Stelmach, Whole Foods Market, Paula Hegele, Maui Wine, Ernie Wilson,UH Regent/Chef, Front Row: Brittney Cruz, Salsa Cruz, & Jayne Illovsky, New Instinct. PC: UHMC.

The event was an opportunity for participants to showcase their unique products and network with local investors, business industry leaders, and potential consumers.

This highly anticipated event culminated after an eight-week long training that focused on Maui’s growing demand for new specialty and value-added food products. The line-up of artisan crafted products revealed at the Pitch event demonstrated the creativity and market awareness of our Maui food entrepreneurs.

Top presenter, Jayne Illovsky, owner of New Instinct Foods, pitched two delicious, texturally appealing and full flavored plant-based jerky’s, as an energy-rich, gluten, soy and dairy free snack that appeals to todays on the move outdoor enthusiast.

MFIX Cohort #7 Top Scoring Winner & Company: Jayne Illovsky / New Instinct. $3,000 prize sponsored by the Ulupono Initiative. PC: UHMC.

Second place winner, Salsa Cruz, pitched by Brittney & Eric Cruz, introduced Maui’s growing potential for specialized, and organic food products made by artisan producers interested in all-natural, highly flavorful and small batch production, targeting leading chefs, restaurateurs and food enthusiast.


Third place winner, Ginny DeMaio, who enthusiastically pitched her eat healthy and dream big “Intastella Jella” vegan plant-based snack option made with all natural juices and health benefits in each portion.


“We are very grateful to our major sponsor the Ulupono Initiative, in addition to, Kai Marketing, Flavor Waves, Whole Foods Market and Focal Point Consulting who provided the award funding and continued support of this unique food “X-celerator” business program that allows aspiring food entrepreneurs to further grow their businesses,” said Chris Speere, Maui Food Innovation Coordinator.

Maui Food Industry X-celerator instructor Greg Cabanting added, “During the MFIX course, cohort 7 participants demonstrated the greatest growth from product ideation to market ready testing of all previous cohorts. The students had perfect attendance creating a dedicated, supportive and nurturing class environment that was essential to each company’s success, in addition, the MFIX program connected each fledging food company with mentorship by many of our Maui community businesses, which serves as an invaluable networking tool for food start-ups!”

This year’s judges represented various sectors of the food industry: Paula Hegele, President, Maui Wine, William Stelmach, Food Production Manager, for Whole Foods Market, Jesse Ibanez, Manager, Tamura’s Maui, and Ernie Wilson, Retired Chef and UH Regent.


Winners were selected based on product innovation, presentation of concept, and business acumen.

The next MFIX program will start on Monday, Feb. 2, 2019. For information or to register please visit: or email to [email protected]

For more information about the Maui Food Innovation Center and its training programs, please visit: or call Chris Speere @ 808-984-3690.

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