Hawaiian Host Group
Hawaiian Host Group—the Honolulu-based parent company that now incorporates Hawaiian Host, Mauna Loa, and KOHO brands—is a manufacturer of premium chocolate and macadamia nut snacks. Founded in 1927, Hawaiian Host Group produces and distributes more than 40 unique products worldwide.
Hawaiian Host and Mauna Loa—both companies that produced snacks made from macadamia nuts—merged in 2015. Prior to the merger, Mauna Loa had been a subsidiary of multinational manufacturer The Hershey Group, and its team members were accustomed to working within a large corporation. Hawaiian Host had devoted customers and strong brand equity, but relied on smaller-scale business process management and was defined by a tight-knit, familial culture. These cultural and operational differences caused friction—the two teams struggled to work collaboratively without a unified identity or vision. Packaging for Hawaiian Host and Mauna Loa’s consumer goods simply featured both company’s logos side by side, as opposed to a shared identity, as team members of each company remained siloed in their “old” work formations.
In order to thrive post-merger, Hawaiian Host and Mauna Loa needed to unify employees around one strong employer brand and performance culture. In 2019, a new company president took office, and asked IP to build this culture of unity, where everyone would work together effectively—collaborating across departments, across different company locations (Los Angeles, Honolulu, Hilo, Tokyo), and across the two different brands. The overarching question from Hawaiian Host to IP was, “How can we unite this team?”
Our qualitative research included 40 interviews, as well as a deep analysis of Hawaiian Hosts’ industry and competitive set. We knew Mauna Loa and Hawaii Host needed a true parent brand to unite the team and support the company’s future growth. To create this, we went back to the company’s beginnings—capitalizing on Hawaiian Hosts’ founder Mamoru Takitani’s vision of pursuing excellence, continued growth, and commitment to “make the islands’ future flourish.” This was a rallying cry for both companies’ team members to converge around. We then strategically chose Hawaiian Host Group as the name for the unified brand: It evoked a corporate brand distinct from both original companies, but did not forgo the legacy, familiarity, and brand equity that Hawaiian Host enjoyed (which had historically enabled them to attract top talent). We created a verbal system that also evoked Takitani’s vision, as well as the idea of serving as “hosts”—inviting and inspiring people to live better through the Spirit of Hawai’i. Our visual system reflected the colors and tones of the Hawaiian islands, including a new Hawaiian Host Group logo that merged elements of both portfolio companies. We then activated the brand with a new website, templates, corporate identity package, and even surfing and golf clothing to connect to some of the islands’ favorite leisure pastimes.
Hawaiian Host Group’s culture steadily improved with the adoption of a one-team mindset and unified mission. This was evident in general employee feedback (which the company started measuring shortly after IP’s work with them): the company’s Employee Net Promoter Score increased by nearly 20 percentage points. There was improved collaboration across departments and increased engagement from employees. In addition, Hawaiian Host Group maintained and expanded upon the brand recognition of Hawaiian Host, adding a new brand, KOHO, to its portfolio—a testament to how well the different teams, departments, and brands were now collaborating to make the company more profitable.