Business Lessons from the Family Behind King’s Hawaiian

Business Lessons from the Family Behind King’s Hawaiian

WI have a big deal today, folks! I am happy to open myself Forbes magazine King’s Hawaiian and rolls, feature the family behind the Tairas.

Led by the founder’s son Mark Taira since 1983, the business is the crown jewel of the food industry and the family’s story of success and the American dream. My comprehensive profile covers what they have achieved and where they are going.

After spending time with Mark at the family’s roll factory—where we ate fresh King’s Hawaiian rolls—we headed back to headquarters in Torrance, California, for a sit-down. I also interviewed his children and many other long-term employees. I’m sharing all of this in a six-page spread.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that their rolls define the category and the business itself pretty much coveted – both bankers, investors, grocers and competitors. Applications to buy King’s Hawaiian are coming in all the time, says David W. Hasenbalg, head of RBC’s Food and Beverage Group at City National Bank, who has worked with the Taira family for two decades.

The Tairas say they never want to sell. But if they did, it would likely be a big deal, says Hasenbalg: “Big. I mean giant. Your numbers would be off the charts and the dollars would be huge.”

Read the feature for yourself. There are many lessons. Here’s one: Create a wide moat around the castle. King’s Hawaiian has strong leverage with retailers because, unlike fresh bread in waste-prone supermarket bakeries, the rolls sell out sooner than they reach their expiration date. When the King’s Hawaiian sales team meets grocery store buyers, they can say something sales reps rarely can: King’s Hawaiian helps build their business, says John Linehan, CEO of King’s Hawaiian parent company Irresistible Foods Group.

“I tell them sometimes,” Linehan told me, “the reason you’ve won bonuses three years in a row is because of this brand. Don’t ask me for a dime discount. I used up some jet fuel on the way here, if that’s what you want to talk about.'”

This is how King’s Hawaiian gets its deals and why a 100% family-owned business is just getting started.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll be dipping King’s Hawaiian’s latest offering — sweet bagel bites — into a baked spinach-artichoke dip. Are sliders in your future this weekend?

– Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer


Order my book The Raw Deal: Covert Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Battle for the Future of Meatout now from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.


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Field records

King’s Hawaiian began my reporting journey Breakfast at King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant with Mark Taira’s son Winston Located in Torrance, California, minutes away from headquarters and original coil factory. I enjoyed a plate of omelettes, Portuguese sausage and fried rice, a side of King’s Hawaiian bread French toast, and an iced Shaka tea.

I couldn’t bear to finish the meal with this a specialty from the business’s founder, Robert Taira, famous for his chiffon cakes. The Paradise Cake pictured is one of the Taira family’s favorites and I quickly understood why. It has three layers of different flavors – guava, passion fruit and lime – and the cloud-like fluff mixed with tropical flavors blew my mind.


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Chloe Sorvino Leads food and agriculture coverage at Forbes as a staff writer on the enterprise team. His book, The Raw Deal: Covert Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Battle for the Future of Meat, published on December 6, 2022 by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Nearly nine years of Forbes reporting have taken him to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-stricken farms in California’s Central Valley, burned national forests burned by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha, and more. even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in northern France.

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