Meet and Treat: Get to Know a Bit About Big Island Candies

Delicious Vision

We’re so excited to launch our first post on our blog! If you’re familiar with us here at Big Island Candies, Aloha! And if you’re new to the Big Island Candies brand, Welcome! As with just about anything, a good place to start is at the beginning. We’ll kick things off with a question: Did you know that Big Island Candies started out with just a chocolate melter and a shrink-wrap machine? Actually, to take a step back, our company started out as just a dream, shared by Allan Ikawa and his wife, Irma, who were both born on the Big Island of Hawaii. They decided to invest everything they had in 1977 to pursue their vision/version of the American Dream: to start a business that would craft Hawaii’s finest confections, using only the freshest, highest quality ingredients.

A Shortbread Is Born

Initially, Big Island Candies was a wholesaler/manufacturer of chocolate-covered macadamia nut candy (thus the reference to Candies in our name). Allan put in 16-hour days at a small warehouse on Maka`ala Street in Hilo’s industrial area, making the dream a reality. But the dream, at times, was anything but. Together, Allan and Irma overcame some devastating setbacks in their steadfast pursuit of their passion. It took pride and perseverance to keep moving forward, a commitment to staying true to the values instilled in both of them by their families. It took something else too—innovation. And that’s when one of our signature products was born: the original, incomparable Macadamia Nut Shortbread, diagonally dipped in creamy milk chocolate, and for that extra-special touch, each cookie would be individually wrapped (still is!). From there, many other deliciously decadent confections would follow, and when something is that good, you just have to share it.

Love In Store

In 1989, our first flagship store/factory opened at 500 Kalaniana`ole Avenue. Hawaii residents and visitors alike descended upon the location to purchase a variety of goodies for friends and family (and rightly so, some treats for themselves no doubt). Although the act of gift-giving is practiced all over the world, nowhere is it as deeply ingrained in the culture as it is in Hawaii. More specifically, the Japanese concept of “omiyage” has been widely embraced for generations. As an expression of love toward the recipient, omiyage lies at the heart of everything we do at Big Island Candies. Whatever we produce must look good, taste good, and bring happiness to others.

By the late ‘90s, we launched our first mail-order catalog, and opened our current flagship store/factory at 585 Hinano Street, complete with factory viewing through large windows around the store so people could see how some of our creations are made (an attraction we first introduced at the Kalaniana`ole location, and even now, it’s the cutest thing when little kids are at those windows, looking at ALL… THAT… CHOCOLATE). We were also welcomed by this thing called the internet (you may have heard of it), which found us an online home at This new type of store was always open—and it still is. Whether people live in Hawaii, had visited once or often, or hadn’t been yet, the gift—and taste—of Hawaii can always be shared with others.

The New Millenni-yum

From premium chocolates and signature Hawaiian shortbread cookies to mouthwatering baked treats and many other favorites, the 2000s saw our product lines of goodies growing. In addition, our specialty assortments continued to be popular with customers. Featuring an enticing array of delectable items, these gifts are presented in packaging designs that reflect the natural beauty of Hawaii, the joy of the seasons, and the happiness of the holidays. Gift baskets of best sellers also continue to bring the cheer—any time of year.

In 2013, we opened our store at Ala Moana Center on Oahu, another opportunity for customers to purchase gifts of gratitude, or something special for that special-occasion celebration: a birthday, a holiday, perhaps an anniversary or a graduation, to name just a few. For visitors especially, our retail locations have become must-stop shops for purchasing scrumptious souvenirs, tasty takeaways from their time in Hawaii. The spirit of omiyage lives on to this very day—safely in person in our stores, any time online, or simply placing an order by phone.

Dream Team

Another thing that lives on is the shared dream Allan and Irma had back in 1977. For over 40 years, we have kept that vision close in our hearts, clear in our minds, and present in our actions. Now more than ever, pride and perseverance continue to resonate deeply with our team of employees, as we look ahead to a flavorful future, one that has us reuniting with people from all over the world, one that has us continuing to embrace the new, while retaining what’s tried and true—it doesn’t get better than that.

We hope that you enjoyed getting to know us a bit better. We want to know more about you: What was your favorite fact from the above? If you’ve tried our confections before, do you have a go-to-goodie? If you haven’t yet, will our Milk Chocolate Dipped Macadamia Nut Shortbread be your introduction, or is one of our other treats calling your taste buds?