7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get at Whole Foods
The gourmet market chain has unique-to-Hawai‘i products and deals that may surprise you.
The gourmet grocery chain has always focused on local produce, but now you can find even more exotic fruits and vegetables, including these finger limes from Hawai‘i Island.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
When Whole Foods Market first opened in Hawai‘i with its Kāhala store in 2008, it offered a shopping experience different from anything else we had here.
It sells a wide selection of gluten-free products; aisles of glossy, perfect produce; curated wines and cheeses; and an all-natural body-care department that feels like a modern boutique rather than a weird alternative medicine shop.
But the higher prices and unfamiliar brands might have scared off some local customers, who were used to navigating through local grocery stores.
On a recent visit to Whole Foods Kāhala, I discovered, with the help of the store’s marketing field team leader Dabney Gough, there’s much more to the upscale market than pretty produce and granola bars.
1. The Produce Isn’t Always Expensive
Sure, you may pay a premium for organic, locally grown produce, not just at Whole Foods but at any grocery store. But, about six months ago, the company started offering sale prices on certain fruits and veggies that are the same at every U.S. store. That’s good for Hawai‘i shoppers, who often pay more to make up for freight costs. Last month, apples at every store were $1.99 a pound. You can find out what’s on sale by checking the store’s website or using the Whole Foods app, where you can create shopping lists and download coupons.
2. You Can Find Coral-Reef-Safe Sunscreen
This line of sunscreen by Badger Natural & Organic Sunscreen is considered safe for coral reefs.
In recent years, scientists discovered the chemicals—particularly the ingredient oxybenzone—in sunscreen can damage fragile coral reef systems. Whole Foods has several brands of sunscreen, including Badger Natural & Organic Sunscreen, that are mineral based—meaning no harmful ingredients—in order to minimize impact on aquatic life. And it’s not overly expensive, either; at the Kāhala store, this brand of broad-spectrum sunscreen ranges in price from $15.99 to $17.99.
3. The Standards for Premium Body Care are High—and Rising
Whole Foods has always had very high standards for its body care products, with restrictions on dozens of ingredients. But its premium body care line now features products that meet even stricter requirements, including not containing any of more than 400 ingredients Whole Foods deems unacceptable, including parabens, polypropylene and sodium lauryl. Even with fragrances, only natural essential oils are allowed. “The whole idea is that anything you put on your body will go in your body,” Gough explains.
4. You Can Find Exotic Local Produce
New to Whole Foods Kāhala is the goat cheese from Sweet Land Farm in Waialua.
It’s no surprise that you can find locally grown Mānoa lettuce, mango and coffee at Whole Foods. But you can even buy harder-to-find produce including lychee, dragon fruit, longan and Buddha’s hand. On a recent visit, we found finger limes (69 cents each), a small citrus fruit from Australia that has an interior pulp that resembles pearls, from Wailea Agricultural Group on Hawai‘i Island. And, beyond produce, Whole Food sells local eggs (563,016 eggs were purchased in 2015), local honey (619,867 ounces) and various brands of local beers and spirits. Recently, it added chèvre from Sweet Land Farm in Waialua to its lineup of cheeses and spreads.
SEE ALSO: Visiting Sweet Land Farm in Waialua
5. It’s a One-Stop Shop for Local Gifts
You can find these colorful Maui-based Moku Pua soaps at Whole Foods Kāhala.
If you’re in need of omiyage or gifts to send to Mainland friends, just head to Whole Foods, where you can find a wide assortment of cool local products from all over the state. We found all-natural, handcrafted, Maui-made Moku Pua soaps scented with apricot hibiscus, Kula strawberries and tuberose; organic skin creams and lotions from Hale‘iwa’s Honey Girl Organics; and rubs and seasonings, many using local ingredients such as Kona coffee and Hawaiian ‘alaea salt, from Kauilani Spices.
6. Get Your Bubbie’s Mochi Ice Cream Fix Here
You can mix and match your favorite Bubbie’s mochi ice cream.
Last October, Bubbie’s Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts closed its popular retail location on University Avenue. But it never really went away. Foodland Farms at Ala Moana started carrying self-serve bins of Bubbie’s mochi ice cream, and now Whole Foods is doing the same. Instead of buying boxes of a single flavor from the frozen aisle at the grocery store, you can mix and match flavors, choosing from chocolate-espresso, lychee or green tea. Get as many or as few as you want.
7. You Can Take Out Or Dine In
The fried cauliflower nachos from Puka’s.
The prepared foods section of Whole Foods isn’t new, but many customers don’t think about actually dining at the store. Both Kailua and Kāhala have a dining concept. At Kāhala, it’s called Puka’s, where you can kick back with a cold local brew and nosh on sushi, burgers and chicken wings. Some of our favorites include the cauliflower nachos (fried cauliflower with chilies, pico de gallo, cilantro, lime and avocado-lime crema, $8) and the new smashed California avocado toast (with sweety drop peppers, pistachio and herbs, $8). Puka’s also serves cocktails—the Kāhala mule ($10) uses local Pau Maui Hawaiian vodka, liliko‘i juice and OnoPops lime syrup—and wines by the glass. In addition to happy hour (from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday), the eatery also features daily specials, including Taco Tuesday (three tacos and a draft beer for $12) and Pub Burger and a Brew on Thursdays (a burger with fries or salad and a draft beer for $13).
Kāhala Mall, 4211 Wai‘alae Ave., #2000, 738-0820, wholefoodsmarkets.com