Christopher Columbus brought pineapple, native of South America, back to Europe as one of the exotic prizes of the New World. (‘Pineapple’ was given its English name because of its resemblance to a pine cone.)
Pineapple (“halakahiki,” or foreign hala,) long seen as Hawaiʻi’s signature fruit, was introduced to the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1813 by Don Francisco de Paula Marin, a Spanish adviser to King Kamehameha I.
Credit for the commercial production of pineapples goes to the John Kidwell, an English Captain who started with planting 4-5 acres in Mānoa.
Although sugar dominated the Hawaiian economy, there was also great demand at the time for fresh Hawaiian pineapples in San Francisco.
After Kidwell’s initial planting, others soon realized the potential of growing pineapples in Hawaii and consequently, started their own pineapple plantations.
Here is some brief background information on four of Hawai‘i’s larger pineapple producers, Dole, Libby, Del Monte and Maui Land & Pineapple.
Ultimately, as part of an economic survival plan, pineapple producers ended up in cooperative marketing programs and marketed the idea of Hawaiian products, as in “Don’t ask for pineapples alone. Insist on Hawaiian Pineapple!”
Dole Pineapple Plantation (Hawaiian Pineapple Company)
James Dole, an American industrialist, also famously called the Pineapple King, purchased 60 acres of land in the central plains of Oahu Island and started the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1901.
In the year 1907, Dole started successful ad campaigns that introduced whole of America to canned pineapples from Hawaii.
In 1911, at the direction of Dole, Henry Ginaca invented a machine that could automatically peel and core pineapples (instead of the usual hand cutting,) making canned pineapple much easier to produce.
The demand for canned pineapples grew exponentially in the US and in 1922, a revolutionary period in the history of Hawaiian pineapple; Dole bought most of the island of Lāna‘i and established a vast 200,000-acre pineapple plantation to meet the growing demands.
Lanai throughout the entire 20th century produced more than 75% of world’s total pineapple. More land on the island of Maui was purchased by Dole.
In 1991, the Dole Cannery closed. Today, Dole Food Company, headquartered on the continent, is a well-established name in the field of growing and packaging food products such as pineapples, bananas, strawberries, grapes and many others.
The Dole Plantation tourist attraction, established in 1950 as a small fruit stand but greatly expanded in 1989 serves as a living museum and historical archive of Dole and pineapple in Hawai‘i.
Libby, McNeil & Libby (Libby’s)
Libby’s, one of the world’s leading producers of canned foods, was created in 1868 when Archibald McNeill and brothers Arthur and Charles Libby began selling beef packed in brine.
In the early 1900s it established a pineapple canning subsidiary in Hawaiʻi and began to advertise its canned produce using the ‘Libby’s’ brand name.
By 1911, Libby, McNeill & Libby gained control of land in Kāne‘ohe and built the first large-scale cannery at Kahalu‘u. This sizable cannery, together with the surrounding old style plantation-type housing units, became known as “Libbyville.”
The Kāne‘ohe facility ultimately failed; some suggest it was because Libby built it on and destroyed the Kukuiokane Heiau in Luluku.
In 1912 Libby, McNeill and Libby bought half of the stock of Hawaiian Cannery Co. By the 1930s, more that 12 million cases of pineapple were being produced in Hawaii every year; Libby accounted for 23 percent.
Del Monte Plantation
Del Monte another major food producing and packaging company of America started its pineapple plantation with the purchase of the Hawaiian Preservation Company in 1917. The company progressed and increased its plantation areas during 1940s.
In 1997, the company introduced its MD-2 variety, popularly known as Gold Extra Sweet pineapple, to the market. The variety, though produced in Costa Rica, was the result of extensive research done by the now dissolved Pineapple Research Institute, in Hawaii. In 2008, Del Monte stopped its pineapple plantation operations in Hawaii.
Maui Land & Pineapple Company
The family of Dwight Baldwin, a missionary physician, created the evolving land and agricultural company. It first started as Haiku Fruit & Packing Company in 1903 and Keahua Ranch Company in 1909, then Baldwin Packers in 1912.
In 1932, it was renamed Maui Pineapple Company, which later merged with Baldwin Packers in 1962. In 1969, Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc. (ML&P) was created and went public.
In 2005, the company introduced its now famous “Maui Gold” variety, which is naturally sweet and has low acid content. Maui Gold pineapple is presently grown across 1,350 acres on the slopes of Haleakala.
Maui Land & Pineapple Company is now a landholding company with approximately 22,000-acres on the island of Maui on which it operates the Kapalua Resort community.
In 2009, the remnants of the 100-year old pineapple operation were transferred to Maui Gold Pineapple Company (created by former Maui Pineapple Company employees who were committed to saving the 100-year tradition of pineapple on Maui.)
While the scale of pineapple farming has dwindled, the celebration of pineapple lives on through Lāna‘i’s Pineapple Festival. Starting in 1992, the event, formerly known as the “Pineapple Jam,” honors the island’s pineapple history. (June 30, 2012 will be the 20th annual Pineapple Festival)
The image is the iconic Dole Cannery pineapple 100,000-gallon water tank. Built in 1928, it was a Honolulu landmark and reminder of pineapple’s role in Hawaiian agriculture until it was demolished in 1993. (images via: A Pineapple Heart and Burl Burlingame, Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
In addition, I have added other pineapple related images into a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.