At a time when many businesses are seeing markets shrink, Kailua-Kona’s Ola Brew Co. has managed to extend its reach to the mainland.
With an expansion that has been in the works since February, Ola Brew’s line of hard seltzers— Lemongrass, Ginger and Lemon Lime — are now available in Whole Foods locations across Southern California. The expansion has required Ola Brew’s facility to increase its production capacity from 25 cans per minute to 100 per minute, and has come with an added benefit of earning USDA organic certification. Utilizing Hawaii’s local organic farms has been a priority since day one for the brewery that first opened their doors in December 2017.
“We’ve always used organic ingredients, but this expansion has been the catalyst for us to get our products USDA-certified organic,” said Ola Brew’s president and director of marketing Naehalani Breeland. “We’re making that transition as well as getting rid of plastics to provide more environmentally friendly packaging.”
Like most businesses in Hawaii, the coronavirus-induced shutdown in March was a significant blow to Ola Brew’s incoming revenue. Approximately 40% of its sales were from its on-site tap room that was forced to shut down, so the increase in retail sales has become a welcome addition.
“Our retail sales have been pretty steady,” said Breeland. “Being able to expand to the mainland is just a way to make sure that our sales continue to grow.”
Finding a distributor is often one of the most difficult aspects for a business looking to broaden its share of the market. This wasn’t the case for Ola Brew; the expansion to the mainland was actually fueled not by the brewery, but by retail partner Whole Foods, who put the company in contact with one of its distributors: Craft Los Angeles.
“We were selling so well at Whole Foods here in Hawaii that they were the ones eager to see our brand sold in their mainland stores,” added Breeland. “We’re really, really excited that we’ve had this opportunity to expand, because our mission is always focused on growing Hawaii’s agricultural economy. In expanding to more stores and to new markets, it is creating a stronger demand for local agriculture that we can purchase from our farming community.”
Though its market has widened across the Pacific, Ola Brew is also looking forward to retaining business here in Hawaii. It will soon be reopening its tap room on Luhia Street. No hard date has been set for the location to open back up to the public, but Breeland stated the brewery is aiming for a mid-July restart. In addition to a renovated tap room, will be a pair of outdoor lanais to aid with social distancing restrictions.
“We have missed a full taproom filled with our community of wonderful individuals,” said Breeland. “We have taken our time to reopen. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back, check out their cool new mask and serve them up a cold one.”