Business Lessons from the King’s Post-Hawaii Family

Business Lessons from the King’s Post-Hawaii Family

WI have a big one today, folks! I’m excited to reveal mine Forbes magazine feature in King’s Hawaiian and the family behind the scrolls, the Tairas.

The business – run by the founder’s son Mark Taira since 1983 – is a gem of the food industry and the family story has become a story of success and the American dream. My comprehensive profile covers what they have achieved and where they are going.

After spending time with Mark inside the family’s roll factory—where we ate King’s Hawaiian Hot Rolls fresh off the line—we headed back to headquarters in Torrance, California for a meeting. I also interviewed his children and many other long-time employees. I break it all down into a six-page spread.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that their lists define the category, and the business itself is enough coveted – by bankers, investors, grocers and competitors. Requests to buy King’s Hawaiian keep coming in, says David W. Hasenbalg, Group Director of Food and Beverage at RBC National City Bank, who has worked with the Taira family for two decades.

The Tairas say they never want to sell. But if they did, it would probably be a massive deal, says Hasenbalg: “Huge. I mean big. Your multiples would be off the charts and the dollars would be plentiful.”

Read the feature yourself. The lessons are many. Here’s one: Create a wide moat around the castle. King’s Hawaiian has a big clout with retailers because the rolls sell out faster than their expiration date, unlike fresh bread in waste-prone supermarket bakeries. When the King’s Hawaiian sales team meets with grocery store buyers, they can show what sales reps rarely can: King’s Hawaiian helps make their business, says John Linehan, CEO of King’s Hawaiian parent company Irresistible Foods Group .

“I tell them sometimes,” Linehan told me, “The reason you made your bonus three years in a row is because of this brand. Don’t ask me for a cent off the price. I just spent a little jet fuel to get here, if that’s all you want to talk about.’

This is how King’s Hawaiian deals and why the 100% family-owned business is just getting started.

I’ll be dipping King’s Hawaiian’s latest launch—sweet pretzel bites—into a roasted spinach-artichoke dip on Super Bowl Sunday. Are sliders in your future this weekend?

– Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer


Order my book, The Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meatnow from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.


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Field notes

I started my king reporting trip in Hawaii breakfast with Mark Taira’s son Winston at King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant in Torrance, California, minutes away from their headquarters and original reel factory. I enjoyed a plate of scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage and fried rice, a piece of King’s Hawaiian French toast, and an iced Shaka tea.

I couldn’t resist finishing the meal with a specialty from the business’s founder, Robert Taira, who was known for his chiffon cakes. The Paradise Cake pictured is one of the Taira family’s favorites and I quickly understood why. It has three layers of different flavors—guava, passion fruit, and lime—and the cloud-like fluff mixed with tropical flavors blew my mind.


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Chloe Sorvino leads food and agriculture coverage as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. her book, The Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat, published on December 6, 2022, with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Her nearly nine years of reporting at Forbes have taken her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-stricken farms in California’s Central Valley, burning national forests cut down by a lumber billionaire, a slaughterhouse centuries old in Omaha and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in northern France.

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