Longtime Traditions Merge With New Beginnings
By Caroline Wright
Last week, the staff of HFM FoodService hosted a quiet office blessing and reception to mark a significant milestone. Going forward, the history-making food service company will be known as Sysco Hawai‘i.
Originally launched in 1964 by a grain milling family from the Northwest, HFM FoodService began as Hawaiian Flour Mill, an ingredient supplier to island bakeries. The company gradually evolved into the largest broad-line distributor in the state and the only one with food-grade facilities on every major Hawaiian island and Guam. In 2017, HFM FoodService was acquired by Sysco Corporation, the largest food service company in the world.
“Before the acquisition, Sysco was in the other 49 states, but not Hawaii,” said Jason Wong, president.
“Our little joke is that we finally made them a national company!”
With 69,000 employees and just over $60 billion in sales, Sysco is a formidable parent, a monolith in the industry. Though there were no plans for a name change at the time of the acquisition, Wong said employees and stakeholders actually requested it themselves.
“Over the past two years, the welcoming of the Sysco brand and its resources has been so positive that our employees asked us to make the change,” he explained. “We were a very successful independent operation, but being part of a Fortune 100 company is wonderful. Sysco is making a tremendous investment into our company.”
That investment includes a new test kitchen, new trucks and freezers, as well as additional personnel with expertise in a variety of critical areas. Sysco also continues to encourage business with local farmers and producers, Wong said, and even offers a program through which it helps smaller farms and manufacturers with insurance. The company formerly known as HFM FoodService was a huge contributor to the Hawaii Foodbank and supported other local causes. Wong said its commitment to ending hunger in Hawaii will ramp up with local sales of Sysco-branded products.
“A portion of every Sysco Brand item we sell will be donated to a Hawaii charity of our choosing,” he explained. At last week’s blessing, Sysco Hawaii kicked off the program by presenting a $25,000 check to the Hawaii Foodbank.
Globally, Sysco employs associates in sales, warehouse operations, finance, marketing, procurement, transportation, and more. Visit sysco.com/careers to see open positions in Hawaii and everywhere else, updated daily. “We run the gamut of entry level to more senior positions,” said Wong, adding that there are plenty of open positions for drivers. “If you come here with the right attitude and work ethic, the sky’s the limit.”
HFM FoodService’s employees — called associates here — enjoyed excellent benefits before the acquisition, but they’re now able to take advantage of Sysco’s stock purchase plan and 401(k) plan. “In addition to the already great benefits provided, associates can now also build their retirement nest eggs,” said Wong.
Though the name on the door has changed — from Hawaiian Flour Mill to HFM FoodService, and now to Sysco Hawai‘i — the heart of the company is still its connection to the community. “We might be part of a large corporate entity, but we value our local culture and we’ll never lose that,” Wong said. “Our parent is just there to add value to our team for our customers. I think that’s huge.”
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COMPANY: Sysco Hawai‘i
LOCATIONS: 716 Umi St., Honolulu, main office (plus distribution centers in Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Hawaii; Lihue, Kauai; and on Guam; parent company Sysco Corporation has 332 distribution facilities worldwide)
PRESIDENT: Jason Wong
EMPLOYEES: 300-plus in Hawaii; 69,000 worldwide
BENEFITS: Medical, dental, and vision bene° ts; stock purchase plan; 401(k); potential for international career opportunities
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