A soda with flavors like mango, lilikoi and pineapple can only come from a tropical island. Waialua Soda was born in Hawaii and continues to thrive, with recent mentions in Hawaii Five-O and Oprah’s “ O” magazine.
The soda manufacturing company is located on Oahu’s North Shore, alongside a sugar mill from Hawaii’s past. A blend of cane sugar and Maui natural white cane sugar is a principal ingredient of the soda, as well as natural flavors and carbonated water. It comes in a glass bottle with a hula dancer on the label; all heads nod at this nostalgic and local product.
According to a description on the company’s website, “Reviving a local soda bottling tradition that goes back more than 100 years, the company uses only clear glass bottles, pure cane sugar, and natural flavors to make its pineapple, mango, root beer, and vanilla cream sodas. The products feature local ingredients such as Maui Brand natural white cane sugar, Big Island vanilla, and honey from Kauai. Waialua Soda Works is owned and operated from a warehouse in the historic town of Waialua, located on the famous North Shore of Oahu.”
While the soda honors all things Hawaii, it is the creation of a couple who moved here from California. Like many other visitors, their Hawaii vacations became a permanent lifestyle change. Since 2002, Karen and Jason Campbell have given birth to the company as well as two children. They continue to expand with retailers in western states, along with Cost Plus World Market in countries around the world.
The newest flavor also taps into Hawaii roots. Kona Red is described as a Hawaiian superfruit – an antioxidant juice. It is made from the berries of coffee plants grown on the Big Island of Hawaii in the Kona region (along with pineapple and apple juices). I have seen coffee plants, but I am not an expert. This description is from the company website: The red ripe fruit of the coffee plant is not used in making coffee; it’s the coffee berry that’s used. The fruit (which surrounds the bean) is removed and reduced to a thick, molasses-like syrup. So the use in soda is an additional value to coffee growers. It contains powerful antioxidants that “help prevent disease, delay aging and produce a long-lasting mood boost.”
My love of Waialua soda has nothing to do with any health promises, or even with nostalgia. It tastes good! The flavors taste natural, not “sweetened” and there is mild carbonation rather than industrial-strength fizzies. The soda is sold at many places in Hawaii. The first time I found it was in a gas station on the way from Honolulu to the North Shore. If you see a bottle, give it a try. You’ll enjoy a unique taste of the Islands, whether it’s part of your Hawaii visit or a pleasant reminder of it.
Posted by: Bruce Fisher