Do they even serve Barbeque Rings at luaus?

By Tim Nelson
Updated November 30, 2018
Credit: Hawaiian Snacks

What’s in a brand name? It can convey an aspirational idea, conjure up images of paradise, or forge a sense of connection between consumer and product. Hawaiian Snacks seems to cover all three. But it would seem that name doesn’t quite deliver on its promise, and a recently-filed lawsuit seeks to prove it.

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser (article is behind a subscription paywall), Michael Maeda of Honolulu and Iliana Sanchez of LA were frustrated when they found out that the chips they assume originated in the 50th state were actually produced by Pinnacle subsidiary Tim’s Cascade Snacks. Their production facility is in Algona, Washington, located some 2,670 miles away from the Aloha State.

Though that little detail is mentioned if one reads the fine print on a Hawaiian Snacks bag, Maeda and Sanchez still feel like they had a case to sue. According to the Associated Press, the suit filed last week argues that consumers likely wouldn’t pay nearly as much for the chips had they known that neither the product nor its ingredients originated in Hawaii. The plaintiffs are hoping to win both an injunction and class-action level monetary damages for “false and deceptive marketing and sale of the Defendant’s Hawaiian brand snacks."

Barring the “read the fine print” argument, it sounds like they might have a case, given both current statutes and past statements. The lawsuit cites Hawaii Revised Statute §486-119, a law which bars any product that “misrepresents the origin of the item as being from any place within the State.” That could come to haunt now-retired Tim’s Cascade Snacks co-founder Jeff Leichleiter, who more or less admitted in 2011 to cynically co-opting Hawaii as a brand .

“We know ‘Luau Barbeque Rings’ doesn’t make sense, but 98 percent of the country doesn’t know,” he told Hawaii Business News. “The Hawaii image is a powerful brand—and it’s done well for us."

With that sort of evidence on their side, there’s a chance that it’ll be time to say aloha (the goodbye kind) to those misleading snacks in the not too distant future. I already can’t wait to watch theLaw & Order episode.