‘Our way of giving back’: Suisan sells bulk food items to customers

  • Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Leann Towata prepares a box food for a Suisan customer.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Sam Horiuchi carries packages of bacon while sorting bulk food items for Suisan customers in Hilo recently. Employees have been selling bulk groceries to customers on a first-come, first-served basis during the pandemic.

Suisan Foodservice is providing its customers with the option to make large-scale grocery purchases in Hilo and Kona.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Hawaii, Suisan employees put their heads together to help Big Island communities.

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For three weeks, Suisan has been selling Aloha Packs, which are bulk groceries at a reduced price, on a first-come, first-served basis. The price varies depending on what food is available each day.

“We decided we were going to do this to help our customers,” Ben Rosete, marketing specialist at Suisan Foodservice, said. “We want to keep people fed and make their lives as easy as possible in this time.”

Suisan serves Hilo on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and Kona on Monday and Thursday. On Saturdays, KTA Super Stores partners with Suisan to offer Aloha Packs at the KTA store in Waimea.

Since the stay-at-home order began on March 25, Suisan has not been able to supply hotels and restaurants with their usual food needs.

“Hotels and restaurants rely on tourism that isn’t happening,” David Bauer, accounting manager at Suisan, said. “Because of this, we have 40% more inventory than usual.”

To help alleviate the amount of food and to keep employees working, Suisan is continuing to offer the daily promotions to recoup costs while selling cheaper food to local customers.

“We have been able to sell pallets of food in just a few hours,” Rosete said. “Even when we run out of food, people are still so thankful.”

Suisan recently sold Aloha Packs of breakfast foods to a line of customers that snaked around the fish market building on Lihiwai Street in Hilo. Employees organized bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausage and English muffins for families of all sizes.

After an insane day, Bauer and other leadership decided to move the Hilo location to the warehouse on Kamehameha Avenue between Kalanianaole Avenue and Keaa Street.

While hundreds people have come through the Hilo and Kona locations for groceries, Suisan has continued to implement COVID-19 safety precautions. Employees wear gloves and masks, and customers are asked to stay in their cars.

“We want people to stay as safe as possible when they get groceries,” Rosete said. “This gives many families an option for a one-stop shop so they can avoid multiple trips.”

Suisan plans to continue this service in Hilo, Kona and Waimea until the stay-at-home order is officially lifted.

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“Selling this low-priced food is our way of giving back to our customers,” Bauer said. “We all have to eat.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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