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A crowd of people at the opening of the food innovation center

From ube chocolates to tropical cocktails featuring locally grown fruit, the grand opening and blessing of the new Maui Food and Innovation Center (MFIC) commercial kitchen and educational center at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College on November 6 was a delicious success.

Fruit and dehydrating machine
Fruit in the freeze dehydrator

The MFIC offers classes to assist entrepreneurs with their startup businesses, concept to consumer, food manufacturing and pitch presentations. Use of the commercial research and development kitchen is an integral part of bringing the value-added food products to the marketplace.

The state-of-the-art equipment there includes a freeze dehydrator, Baxter rotating oven, bottling line with labels and 35- and 65-gallon mixing kettles.

Maui Cocktail Kits

Package of Lahaina Lemonade kit and glass of lemonade with plumeria

MFIC student Katy Tsark launched her Maui Cocktail Kits at the Made in Maui Festival just days before the grand opening. Her kits come in flavors such as Paʻia Sangria (dragonfruit, starfruit, lemon, orange and lilikoi) and Paniolo Pineapple (slow roasted pineapple, orange and bitters).

“The UH Maui Food Innovation Center has been a game changer for our new business,” Tsark said. “The commercial kitchen equipment available to us as well as instructor guidance has been pivotal in our launch. Our company can now grow without investing blindly.”

Tsark served a pineapple, hibiscus lemonade at the grand opening brunch and received many compliments.

Galleon Chocolates

Student Len Gonzales used to be a technologist who worked in Silicon Valley designing financial software. Today, as CEO and founder of Galleon Chocolates, he crafts bold innovative confections inspired by Pacific Rim cultures, with a focus on Filipino and Hawaiian flavors.

Ube chocolate that was served at the event

“The faculty and staff of the MFIC were super supportive, always available and willing to answer questions, problem solve collaboratively and unblock hurdles,” Gonzales said. “They also connected me with key business partners to accelerate my product from concept to reality, and scale production.”

Gonzales shared some of his unique confections at the grand opening event. Galleon’s Bonbon Bars feature flavors such as Ube Royale, Dark Chocolate Calamansi and Passion Fruit Cheesecake.

10th cohort

Tsark and Gonzales are part of the MFIC’s 10th cohort. Until the new $8.5-million MFIC kitchen opened in December of 2022, they worked in an older facility in the Laulima building.

The MFIC is Hawaiʻi’s first college-based business incubator that serves to foster and accelerate the growth and education of agribusinesses and food entrepreneurs.

“We strive to increase the profitability of Maui’s food industry by supporting the entrepreneurs and development of new value-added food products in our commercial research and development kitchen,” said MFIC Instructor Angela Gannon. “We also aim to reduce our islands’ dependence on imports, contribute to the sustainability of island-based agriculture and create job opportunities.”

For more information about MFIC classes and services, email uhmcmfic@hawaii.edu or call (808)-984-3850.

A crowd of people at the opening of the food innovation center

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