Growers enlist international company to verify origin of Hawaiʻi macadamia nut products
Consumers purchasing products with packaging that may imply the products are made with Hawai‘i-grown macadamia nuts will soon be able to tell if what they are buying is actually the real deal.
The Macadamia Growers of Hawai‘i, a newly formed group of Hawai‘i macadamia nut growers, has contracted international powerhouse Oritain, which uses cutting-edge forensic science to identify the origin of ingredients in products. The Hawai‘i Macadamia Nut Association will be supporting this study.
New Zealand-based Oritain has verified the geographical authenticity of a broad range of products, including wools, cottons, denim, serums, and fruits. This protects the reputations of industries and companies, according to the growers organization.
The Hawai‘i Coffee Association, which represents coffee growers, processors, retailers, and service providers, also contracted Oritain in May 2022 to identify counterfeits of Hawai‘i-grown coffee to protect the brand and local coffee growers. Current state and federal laws allow companies to claim their product is Hawai‘i-grown coffee and call it “Kona coffee” even if their product only contains 10% of coffee from Hawai‘i.
“Our study is a proactive measure to raise awareness about this issue, protect local macadamia nut growers and the iconic Hawai‘i macadamia nut from being unfairly exploited, and foster transparency along the supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors to retailers,” said Brad Nelson, a director of the Macadamia Growers of Hawai‘i and president of Hawaiiian Macadamia Nut Orchards, which operates 5,000 acres of macadamia nut orchards in Pahala and Kea‘au on Hawai‘i Island. “We want to avoid having to resort to litigation to stop mislabeling practices.”
“If products containing macadamia nuts do not state they have nuts from Hawai’i, the nuts may be from anywhere,” Nelson said in a news release. “Holding companies to a higher standard of integrity and transparency will benefit consumers, both kama‘aina and visitors alike.”
Growers say this study, combined with legislative initiatives now underway, will support the local macadamia nut industry, which has been struggling to compete against low-cost foreign macadamia nuts.
HB 1348, currently in the legislature, proposes an amendment to strengthen an existing state statute (HRS 486-120.5) by requiring in some circumstances products with processed macadamia nuts sold in the state to list the countries of origin of the macadamia nuts on the product’s label. The industry hopes that the legislature adds more protection in HB 1348.
Oritain’s three-year study has started with the industry working on coordinating the collection of hundreds of macadamia nut samples. This initial phase of the study will create a unique “origin fingerprint” for Hawai’i-grown macadamia nuts, defining its profile from the raw kernel stage to when it is roasted or salted.
“We are delighted to be supporting local Hawai‘i producers to give consumers confidence that they can truly verify that the physical product they consume is authentic and solely from the beautiful state of Hawai‘i,” said Frederick Duffield, Oritain’s global head of corporate affairs.
Oritain uses technology from the world of forensic science to measure a product’s stable isotopes and trace elements to verify its origin. This unique methodology applies forensic science and data to detect naturally occurring elements in a product or raw material. Soil composition, climate, altitude and other environmental factors all reveal the details of a product’s origin. This allows Oritain to test products at any point in the supply chain – to clearly differentiate between those labeled correctly and those that are not.