WRITTEN BY VANESSA WOLF
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE BURNS ‘OHANA
The rhyming musicality of ‘Anahola Granola’ sounds like manifest destiny, but the small batch, handmade cereal started out nameless.
“In response to the urging of friends who said, ‘your granola is so good, you should sell it,’ I began doing so at Christmas Fairs in 1986,” reminisces owner Becky Burns. “As things started to take off, I had no idea what to name my business. You would think the name would be obvious to me as I lived in Anahola, but it didn’t come together until a friend came to visit and said, ‘Duh. How about Anahola Granola?’”
Over the years, Becky slowly grew her business, employing individuals with disabilities and even opening a cafe in 1989. However, Anahola Granola’s first big leap forward came after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. “When a road block is placed in front of me, I figure out a way to get around it. I marketed the granola to the executive chefs of the hotels on the outer islands. They took pity on me and the plight of Kauaʻi, and ordered my tropical blend.”
Whether due to sympathy or (more likely) the product itself, the Hawaiian-themed granola – rich with coconut, papaya, pineapple, macadamia nuts and Hawaiian honey was popular with resort guests. “This sounds crazy now,” Becky remarks, “but when I started, not many people knew what granola was. Many of the people I met thought oats were for horses and couldn’t imagine eating it, especially for breakfast.”
As Becky nurtured the blossoming business, she did the same for her growing daughter. Just two years old when Anahola Granola started, Malia Burns grew up in the kitchens where her mother worked. “The oldest memories I have of our granola are sensory ones,” Malia recalled. “I remember the way the commercial oven doors sounded as they opened and released the sweet smells of baking granola.”
As a single mother of one, Becky’s “second child” became her company. “I constantly had to juggle caring for both of my ‘babies,’” she laughed. “But keeping the business small enabled me to focus on my greatest love: Being a mother. Still, Malia grew up alongside Anahola Granola.”
Naturally, there were growing pains. “I vividly remember being five years old, and a local TV company contacted my mom to do a segment,” Malia shared. “At the end, they thought it would be sweet if they showed me eating the granola saying, “yum, it’s good!” For whatever reason, I chose to use the temporary power imbalance to my advantage and refused. My mom, upset and embarrassed, took me to the only private part of our bakery – the bathroom where I had a full-blown tantrum. ‘I’ll only do it if you take me to the store and buy me a Barbie, AND I’m going to spit the granola out after I do it.’ For the one and only time in my 31 years, she backed down. I walked out of that bathroom, put on the sweetest smile, ate a big bite and exclaimed, “Yum! It’s so good!”
“When a road block is placed in front of me, I figure out a way to get around it.”
A few years have passed since that incident, and Malia now leads Anahola Granola in many marketing initiatives. “Malia has helped me from the beginning, but her greatest contribution has been in the past five years,” Becky said. “She has a fresh eye for marketing – something I don’t – and our recent rebranding and repackaging was a way for us to share our vision and work creatively together.”
Despite the new look, Anahola Granola started with a formula people loved and Becky has kept true to that tradition. “It’s still the same recipe, still hand-mixed in a big round bowl and still the exact, same way I baked it when I started the business,” Becky noted. In addition to the original, tropical and mango ginger-flavored granolas, the line has expanded to include trail mix and “Maca-Mania” bars, all utilizing as many products as they can source from the islands.
“Although we would like to continue to grow our customer base, we will never do that at the expense of losing being a local Kauaʻi product,” Malia stated.
“I have lived my entire life with a commitment to growing, eating, and serving healthy, nutritious food,” Becky added. ”This may sound corny, but to me Anahola Granola is more than food. Within the product is everything I care about: Healthy nourishment, strong Hawaiian heritage, respect for people and an experience of the extraordinary place Hawaiʻi is. I feel an honor and an obligation to be a part of this community and to build on it.”