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Whole Foods Hawaii

A consolidated thread for exciting finds, guidelines & commentary on our island Whole Foods stores.

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  1. We were there on Saturday afternoon.... absolutely jam packed although most people seemed to just be browsing, and picking up just a couple of things. Not knowning that Honoluluans are notorious for flocking towards new retail establishments... we naively planned to do our entire week's shopping.... we got it done... 2+ hours later!

    Comments

    > Its one of the more attractive WF stores... with wider aisles and a more open floor plan than usual.

    > WF seem to come in 1 of 3 flavors...

    (1) Your older stores located around "Neo-Hippie 'hoods"... they tend to have huge produce & bulk departments, small butcher section, smaller processed food sections etc.,

    (2) The "Upper Middle Class Suburb" stores with huge Prepared Foods, Deli, Cheese & Wine areas... smaller Meat case & produce section.

    (3) The "Wealthy Old Geezer" neighborhood stores with their larger Champagne, Caviar, exotic Game Meats etc., and lower emphasis on the Organic, Exotic & Global / Ethnic products.

    The Kahala Mall version is cleeearly a #2... it had the biggest Prepared Foods section I've ever seen at a WF... and a very small Produce section.

    > The produce section was not particularly strong. Its very small... breadth & depth are both sorely lacking.... they didn't have fresh mint. The had locally grown thyme & italian parsely... they had cilantro and lots of sage... but no mint... strange. The good... lots of local produce.... it seemed almost half of their stuff was local. The bad... most of that local produce kind of sucks. The catch 22... if we don't buy that local produce... then we cant keep the small scale farmers in business... and they need time & experience to learn how to grow better stuff. The ugly... well that would have to be the locally grown haricovert... I guess I could live without them... I hope WF works with local producers to grow stuff that does well in this terroir and not jam in all the "Haole ingredients"... its a balance of preserving the Hawaiian identity while still being cosmopolitan and embracing new stuff.

    > The fine cheese case looks good... but the dairy case is kind of limited.

    > The meat shop is good and could fill a void. They make solid, quality sausages (at least the Mexican style chorizo is good... they also make real Linguica, Italian sausages etc.,) @ $6.99 per lb. They have Prime Dry Aged Ribeye for $30/lb which is comparable (even cheaper) than many mainland locations. They have some very good unrated grass fed Ribeyes from Nebraska at $14/lb, good looking baby back ribs at $8/lb... and other good stuff. Unfortunately, this was the lightest traffic area... and I could hear people snicker & gasp at the prices while they strolled past.

    > The seafood case was sorely lacking & overpriced given the standard here in Hawaii... I think this is one area WF is really going to have a hard time being competitive.

    Overall... prices don't seem to be that bad. On the mainland, WF is obscenly & offensively expensive... but here they seem to be very competitive against Safeway & Foodland... I think Safeway just sucks at managing their supply chain... we shall see if WF does a better job. I do think it will make it... they will survive on the back of their Prepared Foods & their selection of healthier processed foods alone. Oh yeah their supplements section is particularly large as well. We shall see how the unprocessed food areas do.

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    Kahala Mall Shopping Center
    4211 Waialae Ave # 33, Honolulu, HI

      1. FYI... Whole Foods carries Grade B maple syrup. I had only seen the crap Grade A stuff at other stores... so I am not sure if its rare here. Its their own brand, organic sells for $20 per 1 liter... its not cheap and not as flavorful as the Trader Joe's Canadian Grade B... but its definitely good.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Just for my edification, do the maple syrup graders use a descending scale? I've gotten many maple syrups, but may not have observed as closely, as I should. You are saying that "Grade B," is superior to "Grade A?" Not quibbling, but trying to learn.

          Mahalo,

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Well conventional thought has been that Grade A denotes a "superior" product... its light in color & flavor.. and it traditionally sold for more than Grade B. Over the last decade or so... Maple syrup aficionados have flocked towards the strong woodsy flavors of Grade B... bidding up prices to the point that they are even... and depending on the geographic area... one may sell for a premium over the other.

            Think of it this way... a couple of generations ago... people in the U.S. paid good money for extra light Olive Oil... and its only been relatively recently that people have shunned it, in favor of the pungent, grassy Olive Oils with "lots of terroir".

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              EN,

              Thanks for that info. I guess that I have just been happy, when we had "real" maple syrup, and I have not payed enough attention to what we got. That WILL change, thanks to you.

              Mahalo,

              Hunt

            2. re: Bill Hunt

              Originally maple syrup was graded for use in making sugar. The lighter and cleaner the syrup, the easier to process into sugar, so Grade A was the grade with the least maple characteristics.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Grade B has much more flavor than Grade A, but the real treat is Grade C-- wow! You choose your food to showcase the syrup with Grade C. Oatmeal with C is divine. The only trouble is that Grade C is only available in maple syrup tapping areas, and even then you have to get pally with a farmer, as it's usually kept for family and friends.

                  1. re: crowsonguy

                    You don't come in here telling us all about the wonders of Grade C and then sentence that its impossible to find!

            3. I've gone twice, once the day the opened and then again on Saturday. The first time I expected it to be ridiculously busy and of course, there were many people just grazing and checking it out. The second time I intended to actually do my weekly shopping. It took ages because still there were many people just grazing and wandering around aimlessly. I think it will be better when the newness wears off and its less of a novelty for people to just check out.

              7 Replies
              1. re: haolebaby

                just for reference, when K-mart opened about 20 years ago, it took a month before they could take down the orange cones that were re-routing traffic. It wasn't quite as bad for walmart 5 or 6 years ago, but close. Early/mid October should be better.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Whew. I bet it's going to be terrible when Target opens...

                  1. re: haolebaby

                    Now that is something I'd actually leave the house for and drive to!

                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                    I remember that vividly. We'd usually try to stop in, on our way from the airport to pick up tennis balls, for our vacation. Finally, we gave up even trying and I just packed a few cans. I still find the Costcos to be at that "traffic cone" level, even up around Schofield. It's pretty much the same everywhere. In PHX, we had an old K-Mart that was converted to whatever the larger, new ones are called, and they needed police to get people off of the highway, and into the parking lot. That lasted for nearly a year. Now, it's practically deserted.

                    Hunt

                  3. re: haolebaby

                    Gosh, sounds like my local Costco. I can't even get to the wine section, unless I use my commercial card to get in early, because whole families go there to dine at the little kiosks, that have various food items. If I hit htem during peak times, there are maybe 30 people at each of these, leaving their carts to fill the aisles.

                    WF has been in the Valley of the Sun for some years now, and they're usually busy, though not crowded.

                    I still find the Costcos in Hawai`i to be filled to capacity on every visit. We usually stop in to get a box of papaya, a couple of pineapples, and then everyday wines for our stay. Just finding parking is always a hassle, regardless of which store (which Island) we stop into. I'll be interested to see how busy the Maui store is, as it has been 5 years, since we were there last. Then, it took an hour, just to get a case of wine!

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      The Dillingham (central) Costco is reported to be the highest grossing Costco of them all.

                      1. re: Joebob

                        You are correct! However technically it is referred to as "Iwilei" the area of this Costco.

                  4. I was at Whole foods this afternoon. In general the prices are very similar to those for "organic" type food at Safeway or Foodland, in some cases less, in some cases more. Certainly a bargain compared to Down to Earth or Kokua Market. I was disappointed that they did not have any local eggs. Didn't have time to look at other dairy products. Produce was in general very nice, but not as extensive as I had hoped, still spoiled from growing up decades ago in California I guess. All in all worth the trip, and will be back, but it's not likely to become the foundation of my shopping.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      I was there last week and bought a marinated opah steak and had it grilled (for free) on the advice of Nadine Kam. It was delicious! The steak was a few oz under a pound and it was enough to feed me and my fiance dinner with leftovers for his lunch the next day.

                      I wasn't shocked by the prices there as I thought I would be. It's shocking to go to the regular markets and see how high their prices are!

                    2. Hi EN -
                      Thanks for the detailed report. I agree with your assessments, I was pretty disappointed in produce + seafood too. I was hoping that the seafood there would save me the drive to Tamashiros, but I don't see WF competing based on selection there. Re: produce, I'll be back to KCC for all my fresh basil, mint, etc.

                      I was personally little disappointed in the meat selection (maybe that's the midwesterner in me speaking). I was hoping for some variety there, as my local Safeway has a terrible selection of sausages, and beef. I digress, I did see some lamb chops there which gave me hope. I LOVE veal and was hoping to find some there (do they sell it at WholeFoods, even? I used to get it elsewhere in Scottsdale). Glad to see that you picked up on the sausages, which I completely missed somehow, so I will have to swing back over there to take a closer look.

                      I had the opportunity to go during the middle of the day, on a Tuesday so crowds not an issue.

                      Didn't think the prices were too bad compared to other grocery here - but I think that's all relative since we are all so used to paying such high prices for food.

                      Anyway, thanks again for the great review EN.