This month, we are putting our Hosts of Hawai‘i Spotlight on one of our most tenured team members, Lito Aquiat, Maintenance Manager at our Honolulu production facility. Over the past four decades, Lito has gained a wealth of knowledge about our company and what it takes to be a Host of Hawai‘i. Read all about Lito’s incredible 42-year journey with Hawaiian Host Group below.
HHG: How did you land your job at Hawaiian Host Group?
Lito: In 1980, I moved to Hawai‘i and my sister’s friend was working at Hawaiian Host. She mentioned to me that the company had a job opening and was nice enough to bring me to the factory on King Street to submit my application. I was interviewed and hired on the same day – August 8, 1980, a day I’ll never forget. I accepted the offer to work right away! I was so excited to start – I thought to myself, “who could resist the opportunity to work with delicious chocolate?”
HHG: What exactly do you do here?
Lito: I was originally hired as a Utility Worker which included everything from packing and sealing products, to even cleaning the restrooms – anything that needed to be done I helped with. A few years later, I was promoted to Team Lead. Some of my responsibilities in this role were opening the factory at 5:00 AM each day and doing minor repairs on the equipment. Then, in 1992, I was promoted again to Production Supervisor, and I oversaw the chocolate production line with three other supervisors. Four years later, we moved to the facility on Alakawa Street, and I was promoted to Production Manager.
In 2015, I was offered the position for my current role as Maintenance Manager. In this role, I am responsible for managing repairs and preventive maintenance for over 50 unique machines throughout the facility and ensuring our 100,000+ sq. ft. facility, is taken care of, maintained in good condition, and meets the highest food safety compliance standards. This allows our team to continue running our production operations smoothly. As I reflect on the past 42 years of working with Hawaiian Host Group, I realize how much I have grown. Through all my different roles, I have learned to adapt and push myself to always do my best work and constantly seek to exceed expectations.
HHG: What has been your favorite experience working at HHG?
Lito: I have had so many experiences and adventures with this company over all these years! A big part of why I have stayed for so long is that I have always felt appreciated, valued, and supported by upper management. Some of my most favorite memories are from when our founder, Mr. Takitani was still alive. Mr. Takitani would shut down production for two weeks each year and take all the employees on a trip to the mainland. It was very exciting because it was an opportunity to get to know Mr. Takitani and my colleagues personally and bond outside of the workplace. This big gesture was a way for Mr. Takitani to thank us for our loyalty and reward us for our commitment to Hawaiian Host. Experiencing this was truly a privilege that I am still very grateful for. To this day, those trips are among my most cherished memories.
HHG: What is your proudest accomplishment so far at HHG?
Lito: I am most proud of two big accomplishments that I helped the company with. First, when we moved to our production facility on Alakawa Street in 1996, we built the facility from the ground up. We broke ground and installed brand new equipment. As the Production Manager at the time, I helped oversee the maintenance of the building and equipment. The equipment proved especially challenging to maintain as we had to source machine parts for repairs internationally from Germany, Japan, and England. I would have to call our partners from home and try to communicate with a language barrier and significant time differences, but I was able to make it happen and always got the parts we needed to keep our business running.
The second accomplishment I feel most proud of was helping to lead a project that enabled our team to improve efficiency and productivity. I helped to increase the capacity of our dark chocolate line from producing 60 cases per day to 700 cases per day by automating a previously manual process. I cannot take all the credit for this as I worked with marketing and upper management on this project, but I helped drive the efficiency opportunity through minimum modification to the line. I feel really proud that I have been able to overcome many challenges and maintain and improve our key production lines for over 26 years.
HHG: What is your favorite Hawaiian Host, Mauna Loa, or KOHO product?
Lito: I would say my favorite Hawaiian Host product is the Founder’s Collection Milk Chocolate because it still uses the premium chocolate recipe that Mr. Takitani originally crafted. For Mauna Loa, my favorite is the salted macadamia nuts, and for KOHO, the Hawaiian Sea Salt Caramel bon bons.
HHG: What is your favorite place in Hawai‘i?
Lito: In Hawai‘i we are surrounded by so many beautiful places, and it is hard for me to choose one as my favorite. One activity I really enjoy doing is walking the Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail or the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike to enjoy the beautiful views, and then having breakfast at Koa Pancake House afterwards with my family. I also enjoy going to the beach for sunset BBQs or hanging out at the Ko Olina Lagoons – most importantly, I try to enjoy it all while I can.
Thank you, Lito, for your hard work, perseverance, and passion for your work. We appreciate your dedication and all you have done to support HHG over the years. You truly are an inspiration to us all!