• Stefan Verbano

Big Island Candies, Hilo


The scent of fresh-baked shortbread first greets visitors from all the way out in the parking lot at Big Island Candies, where wafts of the pleasant, buttery aroma stream from the back of the building that houses the sweets company's massive factory.

Inside the building's front is the product showroom, where a veritable cornucopia of Hawaii-inspired treats lay on shelves in neatly-stacked piles of boxes. An entire wall of the showroom facing the factory floor is transparent, and candy shoppers can watch as blue-gloved employees in green shirts, hair caps and facemasks carefully dip stacks of shortbread one by one into vats of warm chocolate. There are dozens of individual workstations, many marked with overhead signs to aid observers, and the sheer beehive of activity seen behind the glass - of freshly dipped cookies being wheeled on carts to and fro - is enough to make mouths water.

The variety of products offered by Big Island Candies is head-spinning: brownies, cookies, biscotti, toffee, honey, chocolate covered macadamia nuts and Kona coffee beans, mac nut shortbreads, chocolate-covered animal crackers, and even the traditional Japanese dessert made with sweet bean paste known as "manju".

Then there are the individual flavors of each of these: the mac nut shortbreads alone come in coconut, lemon, pineapple, chocolate chip flavors, and others are milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate-dipped. Big Island Candies even makes regular butter shortbread without nuts for people with allergies.

They even dip their brownies in chocolate! Milk chocolate-covered peanut butter brownies are possibly the most tantalizing-sounding of these specialty brownies - a group which includes passionfruit mochi brownies and even dark chocolate-covered coffee brownies.

Tables of gift baskets line the showroom floor, the largest of which contains 10 boxes and 4 bags of assorted goodies - comprising much of the various goodies mentioned above - while a smaller size comes with 7 boxes and 4 bags. Some include specialty items like dark chocolate-covered Kona coffee beans, cocoa-dusted chocolate almonds, and chocolate-mac nut-marshmallow rocky road bars.

A cafe within the showroom serves up cups of fresh-brewed Kona coffee and smoothies in flavors like strawberry, mango, cappuccino, banana and pina colada. They even offer "ice cream pies" made with the island of Maui's very own Roselani Ice Cream. These individual-serving pies also feature Big Island Candies-made original cookie or chocolate shortbread crust.

There are even Big Island Candies-branded reusable totes to round out a one-of-a-kind gift basket of chocolatey Hawaiian goodies. The company's sweets are so good, in fact, that they can now be found at its second retail store at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, in addition to the Hilo flagship factory and showroom located at 585 Hinano Street. The Hilo location, with its fragrant parking lot of tantalizing shortbread, is open daily from 8:30am to 5:00pm, located across the street from Hilo Urgent Care.

Many of these products can be found within the company's online product catalog at bigislandcandies.com