My love/hate relationship with Costco continues. I am recently guilty of buying two gallons of OJ because it was less than the price of two, 1/2 gallons, at KTA. Now I’m giving 2 of the four 1/2 gallons away so it doesn’t go bad. The Little Green Book of Shopping by Diane Millis says something like 30% of food is wasted in the UK and US. That’s a bit excessive.
In a tweet last summer I ranted, “Costco is selling Mexican(small logo) mangoes distr. in CA (large print) in PLASTIC & cardboard in Hawai’i- PROTEST!!” What I couldn’t include with only 140 characters, was what I said to the unfortunate frazzled Mom standing next to me who wanted to buy them. “Are you really going to buy mangoes from Mexico during mango season in Hawai’i?” I asked incredulously. She didn’t appear to be a wholesaler, judging from the contents of her cart. She said something about their tree didn’t have any, which is plausible. We only got a couple dozen up in Holualoa, it’s been so dry. Still, it seems a weak reason to buy produce from 2500 miles away when better quality of the same item is available down the street. But who has time to go down the street when you are looking for healthy snacks for a Cub Scout meeting, as this innocent consumer was?
The packaging was just so over-the-top, it triggered my Joan of Locavore ire. First, the misleading labeling, graphically designed to disguise the foreign origin of the mangoes. Then, the plastic space bubbles–individual depressions in the plastic for each mango, and surrounding that a cardboard retro-flat crate. It’s cheap enough with all that packaging expense that they are bought “wholesale” at Costco and resold at the Kona Farmer’s Market on Ali’i Drive to unsuspecting shoppers assuming they are local. Yes, I fact checked. This is so wrong on so many levels.
All that is to say I have some negative feelings about Costco. The positives are obvious; price, return policy, and they do sell locally sourced goods, including local produce (even organic). That’s how I found out the good news about the ginger.
A previous blog mentions Ken Love‘s story about ginger. He wrote an excellent article about the real problems with mislabeled produce: http://blogs.hawaiibusiness.com/2010/10/08/hawaiian-ginger-product-of-china/. Ginger is one of the scary stories with roots from China, North America, and Hawai’i in the same bin at the grocery store. I had to put on my glasses to find out the Costco ginger was local.
It looked local, but the display didn’t mention local produce or Hawai’i grown. The brand, Christoper Ranch from California, is famous for their garlic.
So good things are happening, even if it’s not obvious. Ginger growers in Hawai’i have found a way to sell their produce to a larger market. Hawaiian ginger is making a name for itself in the world.