ALOHA’s Thrive Market Exclusive Pa’akai Bar Supports Local Farms & Sustainability in Hawaii 

Last Update: April 25, 2024

The Hawaiian word Paʻakai can be split into two different root words: paʻa, which means “solidified”, and kai, which means “ocean water”. In the Hawaiian language, Paʻakai translates to “sea salt” — the solidified form of water from the sea.

The second flavor in ALOHA’s special edition line carried at Thrive Market, the ALOHA Pa’akai bar blends much-revered Hawaiian sea salt with other delicious ingredients, such as dark, organic chocolate and buttery macadamia nuts. “The whole concept of launching “special edition” bars originated from my love of the unique climate and culture of the islands and my impactful interactions with our local partners in Hawaiʻi,” says Brad Charron, CEO of ALOHA. “Unsurprisingly, there is a richly engrained culture of sustainable agriculture, an appreciation for food as sustenance for both body and soul, and an understanding that the quality of ingredients deeply matters. Everything in Hawaiʻi has a purpose and a meaning.”

Hawaiian From Farm to Bar

You may not think that sourcing ingredients plays a big role in creating a protein bar (or at least not in the way that it does with, say, the food at a farm-to-table restaurant), but Charron and the team at ALOHA see things differently. These bars are made of real foods, which require real ingredients sourced from Hawaiian farms.

When it comes time for a farm trip, Charron takes a boots-on-the-ground approach. “I’m there. I’m present. I’m in the fields with the growers and entrepreneurs cultivating the crops,” he says emphatically, clearly passionate about this non-traditional part of the CEO role. “This is not something we outsource.”

Aside from the financial benefit to farmers, there’s also major benefit to a larger brand like ALOHA raising awareness for local farms and the type of sustainable agriculture they practice. “There are so many farms in Hawaiʻi doing things the right way – practicing sustainable and even regenerative farming,” Charron says. “By acknowledging that and celebrating their efforts, we’re driving attention back to them. We’re recognizing the day-in, day-out effort and accomplishment. As a significantly employee-owned company ourselves, we connect so much to that purpose.”

Sea Salt Pulled Straight From the Ocean Depths

To get the hero ingredient sea salt that’s prominently featured in the Paʻakai bar, it requires a bit of alchemy.

First, local purveyors pull large batches of water from the ocean using pipes that reach approximately 2,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in an effort to reach the cleanest, purest, untouched by human, water source. “Check out the map. There’s almost nothing around Hawaiʻi. By geographic determination, it has some of the most pristine ocean conditions in the world,” Charron says.

Next, they desalinate the water, which refers to the process of removing the salt from saltwater. To do this, they allow the water to dry in the sun for up to five weeks where the salt crystallizes into the iconic, snowflake-like, flaky pieces that premium sea salt is known for. Afterwards, they’re able to gather the crystals to use for myriad uses — or, in this case, to sprinkle on top of a chocolaty, protein-rich bar.

This bar not only has a flavor you’d expect from Hawaiʻi, but it also serves the intended role of food in both substance and vitality, something we as a health food brand care about,” Says Charron

Wholesome and Delicious Ingredients

Aside from the sea salt, there are a few other standout ingredients in the Pa’akai bar:

Ponova oil. Ponova oil is a plant-based oil produced from the beans of the pongamia tree, a regenerative tree that thrives in subtropical climates and is historically used for reforestation. ALOHA sources their Ponova oil from an agricultural innovation company called Terviva, which partners with farmers to grow and harvest pongamia trees. Pongamia forests sequester carbon, revitalize soil health and improve water quality, while growing on land where other crops can’t grow. “Ponova oil is such a heart healthy and wonderful oil,” Charron says. “If we had more Ponova oil and less soy and palm oil in the world, the environment would be in a much better place. Consumers would be happier and healthier about the conscious choices made in our food design.”

Macadamia nuts. For a rich, buttery, true-to-Hawaii taste, the Pa’akai bar contains macadamia nuts grown outside Pahala on the southern slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. ALOHA sources these macadamia nuts from the Hawaiian-owned Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, who sustainably dry their nuts by converting the energy of discarded macadamia nut shells into steam using hydro-electric energy.

Dark chocolate.

“I wanted to do something different with the chocolate in this bar that would heighten the flavor of the sea salt and mac nuts,” Charron says. “If you’ve spent any time on Hawai’i, the taste profile of a slightly less bitter, premium dark chocolate, is something you might be familiar with. What we are using in the Pa’akai bar goes perfectly to create a sensorial experience that is both complex and familiar.”

Aloha in Name and Spirit

The spirit of aloha is alive and well in ALOHA’s operations. In Hawaiian “aloha” means many things. For this company and its employees, “aloha” refers to showing respect and love for everyone around you, for seeing “eye to eye” in a community, for treating others with respect and dignity. Charron draws parallels between the concept of aloha and being a B Corp (a certificate that ALOHA first earned in 2020): it’s all about appreciating both the land and the people who care for it.

To help spread aloha on the islands, ALOHA has a longtime relationship with an organization called Kupu, Hawaii’s leading youth-focused nonprofit. “Kupu is an impact-driven organization that has long-standing roots on the islands, organizing action that serves real purpose within the community.”

Kupu’s work is centered around land conservation, clean energy, and natural resource management. They’re committed to creating a better future for the youth of Hawaiʻi, offering professional development programs, conservation camps, sustainability challenges, and leadership programs to help youths enter careers in the conservation field. 

“For me, every trip to Hawaiʻi starts with Kupu,” Charron says. “This past trip I had my 16-year-old daughter, Ella, with me. We planted native trees with a group of young “kupus” to help avoid land erosion and protect species of native birds on Maui.” On any given day, Kupu volunteers might be clearing brush or cultivating local crops, such as taro, which is symbolically and practically significant for the Hawaiian community.

“Kupu is doing so much good,” Charron says. “They’re putting people to work on tasks that benefit all Hawaiians, teaching students in the local high schools and colleges, giving youth real training in sustainability and regenerative agriculture, arming them with real competitive advantages in jobs that actually do good for the planet, near and far.”

With the Paʻakai bar, ALOHA aims not only to support and bring awareness to local farms rooted in sustainability, but also to give back to the communities where their ingredients are grown. Aside from the efforts on the ground in Hawaiʻi, they’re donating 10% of all proceeds from the bar’s sales to Kupu, so the organization can continue its important work for the people (and the land) of Hawaiʻi.

“Our special edition bars are the most obvious manifestation of a business being driven by purpose, actions and not just words,” Charron says.

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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