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"Poi to the World" - The History of the Poi Company
By Craig W Walsh
May 31, 2008 - 12:43:00 PM

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The Poi Company, Inc. was founded in September of 1992 by Dorien and Aimoku McClellan. Craig and Marjorie Walsh purchased a majority interest in the Company in May of 1997 and its name was changed to The Poi Company, Inc. in mid-1998. The green " POI" logo, designed by local artist John Thomas, replaced the Ho`ai brand name. 

The Company was set to bring Poi to the World.

It purchased a factory and warehouse on Kopke Street in beautiful downtown Kalihi in May 1998, and installed a new state-of-the-art poi mill in October, 1998.

At most firms, poi is still made by a fairly primitive process: taro corms arrive in dusty burlap sacks, are turned into a gigantic pot and boiled, then peeled by hand and ground in an open-air hopper. Water is added and the poi is bagged and sold with a shelf life of less than a week.

This open-air, hands-on technique exposes the poi to microorganisms that cause the mixture to begin to sour within a couple of days. A little bit of sour flavor is desirable, but inside a week, the poi will actually ferment and become unpalatable. Poi made in this manner can be frozen but it develops a grainy texture and watery flavor that poi aficionado's scorn.

Through experimentation and with the help of European food scientists, The Poi Company, Inc. developed a proprietary formula for taking taro from a homely corm right out of the mud to a smooth, nutritious pudding-like form in a quarter the time it normally takes. This took place under completely sanitary conditions and with a potential for long-term storage.

Although taro is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and the 14th most cultivated vegetable on the planet, it's little known in many of the world's largest markets (the U.S. and Europe, especially). And taro still tends to be used in traditional ways, as a starch or vegetable side dish. Its potential as a non-fat food or hypoallergenic cosmetic base has never been fully explored.

After investing over $2,700,000 in The Poi Company, Inc. and never earning a profit, Marjorie and Craig just couldn't support it any longer. The Company last made poi on May 2, 2002 and then closed its doors. There is an article about the problems facing the poi industry in general --- and The Poi Company, Inc. --- in the July 7, 2002 issue of the Star-Bulletin.

The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service released its annual report on taro production on January 30, 2003. Their report indicates taro millings for poi totalled 5.7 million pounds in 2002, down 6% from 2001. Poi millings had increased at an average annual rate of 2% during the past ten years (1993-2003). Bad weather, particularly in the Hanalei area of Kauai, was blamed for a reduction in taro yield last year. Flash flooding also spread the Apple Snail parasite (Pomacea canaliculata) over a wider area. The report confirms that the demand for poi declined following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

The taro supply problems continued to deteriorate into the summer of 2003, a year after we ceased production. According to an article in the May 16, 2003 Advertiser, Levi Mahon, the poi buyer at Daiei Supermarkets, "said the troubles got worse a year ago when The Poi Company Inc. shut down. 'Even when The Poi Company was still around, there was always a shortage of poi.' He said customer complaints about the shortage are coming in fast and furious."

On the same day, the headline in the Star-Bulletin said, "Poi Takes A Pounding." The article indicates that Taro Brand has stopped accepting luau orders, and has cut back supplies to regular customers by 15%. The main problem is the continuing taro shortage. The Star-Bulletin says, "Solomon Kaauamo, a farmer in Keanae, East Maui, said his production has dropped even further. Kaauamo said he is getting about 160 pounds of taro a week from his farm, compared with 500 pounds a week last year and 1,000 pounds five to six years ago."

Note:  When the Company stopped making poi, there was no point in maintaining this website.  The Company did not have prodcuts to sell, did not have the funds to renew the domain names, nor did it have funds to pay to have the website hosted.

Craig Walsh noticed that many of the visitors to this site come from .edu domains --- presumably students interested in poi.  When the domains became available, Craig obtained them.  Craig also pays to host this site, purely as a public service.  The only revenue derived from this site --- from the Google ads --- does not pay the hosting bill.  But it helps a little bit.

This website, therefore, is not connected with The Poi Company, Inc. in any way --- and has not been since June 2002.

"Poi to the World" is a registered trademark.  Registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, registration 2,282,008.  Unauthorized use prohibited.

Click here to read the Star Bulletin review of our poi

Star Bulletin review of Freeze-Dried Poi

Pacific Business News Web Business article

Copyright 1998-2009 by Craig W Walsh

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