By Dennis Fujmoto The Garden Island / Sunday, December 23, 2018
Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts was recently honored with nine Scovie awards — four first places, three second places, and two third places — at the recent Fiery Foods Contest in Arizona.
Laura Cristobal Andersland, owner of the Hanapepe-based company that uses sea salt as a base for most of its creations, was thrilled at the showing in the “world’s most competitive fiery foods” contest. Her happiness was heightened when she learned that her sister, Lori Cardenas, owner of Aunty Lilikoi Products in Waimea, also earned Scovie awards at the show.
“This is amazing,” Cristobal Andersland said. “To win a Scovie award is thrilling. To win nine awards — this is double the amount from last year — is just unbelievable. And, this is only the second time we’ve entered the competition.”
Salty Wahine products earning first place in the competition included Island Curry, which topped the Meat Required-Soup judging. The panel described the product as “curry and texture, excellent.” Island Curry also finished second in the Meat Required-Stew judging.
The Hawaiian Rub earned gold in the Barbeque Cook It Up Dry Seasoning-Low Sodium category, and the Fiery Dragon Fruit Java Rub topped the Meat Required Unique division, with the judges describing the product as having “nice texture and great flavor.”
Salty Wahine also placed first in Marketing and Advertising for its website.
The Island Volcano Seasoning won People’s Choice, second place in the Barbeque Cook It Up Dry Rub Seasoning-Low Sodium, and second place in the Barbeque Cook It Up Dry Rub Seasoning-Low Sodium categories by the judges who said the product had “nice base, strong flavor, and good texture; a very good rub from texture to taste.”
Other awards included third-lace awards for the Mango Java Steak Rub and the Passion Fruit Orange Guava Pepper.
Aunty Lilikoi Products earning awards at the 2019 Fiery Foods contest included a second place in the Sweet Heat/Jams and Jellies for its Passion Fruit Habanero Jelly, and a third place in the Prepared Sauce/Stir Fry Sauce division for its Passion Fruit Wasabi Teriyaki Sauce.
Founder of the Scovie awards Dave DeWitt said the 2019 Scovie Awards competition had 676 entries, an increase from the 588 entries in 2018. There were a total of 124 companies entering products, with 101 companies, or 84 percent, winning at least one award. Competitors came from 34 states and 10 countries, including Switzerland, England, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, China and Australia.
What was your reaction when the announcements were made for the Fiery Foods results?
When our name was announced for the awards, I was shocked.
There are so many great products in the world, and for us to be able to compete with the “big boys,” I felt like I was dreaming.
Then, when they had the big winner announcement, which is a blind tasting of all products at the show by the attendees who are just regular folks like you and me voted for their favorite, the announcer said, “First place for the People’s Choice award goes to … Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salt’s Island Volcano Seasoning.” I started to cry, because everyone on Kauai always says how good our products are, and it makes me happy that they support me, but this win just validated the fact that ordinary people around the world really love what we create.
I was in disbelief, proud, floating on a cloud, and very humbled by the whole experience.
How many years has Salty Wahine participated in the competition, and how did you start?
This was our second year competing. My sister Lori Cardenas, aka Aunty Lilikoi, told me I should enter because she really believed I could win something. Lori has entered many times before and she said “Sis, you got this, your products are so much better than theirs.” Lori is one of my biggest fans, and I am one of her biggest fans.
So, I entered last year, took home four awards, and this year we took home nine awards.
How did Salty Wahine get started, and when did you begin operations?
I created my first rub at age 11 in 1971, making spaghetti for my family. Ever since then my mom said, “You’re cooking dinner from now on.”
I continued to make rubs and fun salts for family and friends during my 29-year career at Budget Rent A Car.
My family and friends always told me that I should open a restaurant but I always said “NO!”
I like making my seasoning, and it was always in the back of my head that one day I will make my seasonings for the chefs throughout the island.
In 2008, when I retired from Budget Rent A Car, I decided to sell my seasoning at the farmers’ markets to make some extra money.
I had $800 cash in my pocket to get started, got my general excise license on June 6, 2008. Fast forward 10 years, and we are global.
I will never forget where I came from — we still sell today at the same farmers’ market we got started at. I love our community and making a positive contribution with our business. I try to help new entrepreneurs get started, and anyone can call us and ask for advice on how to get started. We will always help our community.
How is your family involved in Salty Wahine?
My family is why I am where I am today.
When I decided to sell my products as a business, my sister, Lori Cardenas, Aunty Lilikoi, let me use her commercial kitchen, and also sold my products in her store.
Aunty Lilikoi was the first store that carried my products.
Now, we are in over 200 stores statewide. Since Lori has “been there, done that,” Lori helped me avoid a lot of mistakes that would have either wasted time or money.
My sister is the reason why I grew so fast.
I taught my son Sean Cristobal my proprietary techniques and he is now my head chef and makes all our products by hand. We have bought machines for mixing and packaging, but Sean — he developed the Fiery Dragon Fruit Java Rub — still loves the “old school,” mix-by-hand technique.
Sean says that each thing he makes has his “aAloha” in it, something a machine cannot do.
Sean’s wife Jessika Cristobal is head of shipping and wholesale accounts. Jessika’s day is consumed with printing orders and boxing them up. Each package gets a handwritten note from one of us expressing our gratitude for their order.
My daughter Nicole Cristobal is in charge of protocol. Nicole reviews all procedures to make sure we stay true to our Hawaiian roots.
My husband David is my right-hand man and wears many hats. David does all our correspondence and grant-writing. David does all the deliveries to our Kauai stores, much to the delight of store managers. The stores love it when one of the owners hand-delivers their orders and stocks their shelves. David also travels the world with me marketing our business and getting the Kauai name out there.
What kind of plans do you have for the future?
We have successfully transitioned the day-to-day operations to Sean and Jessika.
David and I are going to continue to procure new accounts, market the business. I still do the books and ordering supplies and inventory, but I am teaching Sean how to take over all of that.
David and I plan to keep marketing Salty Wahine, teaching the kids all we have to share. David, Jessika, Sean and I are in the process of starting another medicinal line of herbs, spices, roots and food products under the name “Hawaiian Gourmet Gifts.”
We have been in product development for Hawaiian Gourmet Gits for the past three years and plan to launch this early next year.
I love growing the business and expanding. I love how each member of our family has a hand in our success. I look forward to seeing the day when our grandchildren will be running the business.