Macadamia Nut History
The Macadamia tree was named in 1857 by the European botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, after a friend, Australian scientist John Macadam. The trees were first brought to Hawaii in the 1870’s from their native home, Australia. They were first planted on the Big Island in 1881 by sugar plantation manager, William Purvis.
The macadamia tree was originally favored as an ornamental plant in Hawaii, not primarily as a source for food. The tree is a gorgeous evergreen with leaves that look a bit like holly. The macadamia tree sports white flowers that bloom throughout the year, and each spray of flowers can produce up to 10 nuts. In time, residents of Hawaii began to enjoy the Macadamia nut as a food source.
Ernest Van Tassel, was the first to capitalize on the nut’s commercial value in Hawaii, planting his first commercial orchard in 1921 near Honolulu. You can visit his historic home known as Nutridge, if you’re visiting Oahu. It didn’t take long for others to follow suit, and many sugar plantation owners, looking to diversify out of the waning sugar industry began planting macadamia orchards.
The orchard that would be the foundation of the Mauna Loa operation was established in 1949 near Kea’au. Its first commercial crop was produced in 1956 and it reached full production in 1965, at which time the processing plant was built. During the 1960’s and 70’s the macadamia nut became a staple of Hawaii agriculture. During the 1980’s distribution of macadamia nuts was expanded throughout the mainland and Japan and the nuts were added to candy to help introduce the product to a wider audience.
The MacNut industry in Hawaii has continued to grow and local growers produce over 50 million pounds of nuts annually from over 17,000 acres of orchards around the islands. Macadamias are among the world’s most expensive nuts. Macadamia trees have a very specific growing region that is limited by temperature and moisture and it takes five to seven years for a macadamia tree to bear fruit and 15 years to reach full production. The nuts ripen continuously throughout the summer and fall, so each tree must be harvested five or six separate times. All of these factors add to the cost of the finished product.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation
The Mauna Loa brand was originally launched in 1976. Today the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation is the largest processor of macadamia nut products in the world. The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut plant processes an astonishing 180,000 pounds of nuts (in the shell) daily and packages around 48,000 pounds of kernel from the nuts.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation is also known for its efforts to produce renewable energy to power its Hilo processing facility. They achieve this primarily with a 1.2mw solar farm that produces around 85% of the plant’s energy needs. The remaining 15% is achieved by burning macadamia waste products and channeling the steam generated by the factory’s nut drying tanks. Their renewable energy sources now meet 100% of their electric needs, eliminating the company’s reliance on traditional energy.
A visit to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation’s flagship location offers delicious free samples of macadamia nuts in several flavors. You can see the employees preparing the macadamia nuts while a video explains the process. They updated their visitor center recently and reopened in Sept of 2022. They now feature products from Hawaiian Host as well as Mauna Loa MacNuts.
Open daily 9am – 4pm, there is no charge to look and sample, delicious and fun!
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation Location and Map
16-701 Macadamia Road
Hilo, HI 96720