Mountains, temples, onsens, sushi, anime, cherry blossoms…Japan has a lot to offer. But the most fun part for us? Our amazing team of Hosts there and the energy they bring to HHG. This month, we are excited to put our HHG Spotlight on Hideyoshi “Harry” Murata, the Senior Vice President of Hawaiian Host Japan. Harry was hooked on Hawaiian Host’s chocolate covered macadamias from his first bite, and the rest is history! Read all about his journey with the company in the HHG Spotlight interview below.
What originally drew you to work at Hawaiian Host Group?
When I was 6 years old, my friend brought me a Hawaiian Host chocolate souvenir from his family’s trip to Hawai‘i. It was the first chocolate covered macadamia I’d ever eaten. I’ll never forget that moment and how impressed I was with the delicious and sensational flavor.
My professional background is in the food and confection industry, and when the opportunity to join Hawaiian Host Group came about, it was a no-brainer. Now, over 45 years later, I feel very fortunate to work for this company and represent a product I truly love.
How has your role evolved or changed since joining the team?
My role has evolved quite a bit over the nearly 9 years I have been with Hawaiian Host Group. I first joined the team as a Sales Representative in January 2015, and worked directly with our retailers and wholesalers here in Japan. In January 2018, I was promoted to Sales Planning Manager and strengthened the relationships I had built with my customers. In this role, I also had the opportunity to develop and introduce new, Japan-only, Hawaiian Host and Mauna Loa products into the market.
In January 2020, I became the General Manager of Hawaiian Host Japan. This new role gave me the opportunity to oversee finance, imports, and brand management, which were totally new areas of the business for me to learn. Around the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and entirely changed our business, seemingly overnight. We all had to pivot and learn new ways of working and how to keep our business alive. As a team, we dove in, stayed engaged, and made it through the pandemic.
Earlier this year, in February 2023, I moved to my current role as Senior Vice President. So far, this role has been totally different. My main focuses now fall into three buckets: imports and finance, managing our team, and maximizing our sales and profits.
How do you view your role in supporting your team’s success?
My role in supporting the team’s success revolves around a few core principles. This year, I’ve been deeply committed to building a strong, cohesive team. I aim to achieve this by actively addressing each team member’s challenges and obstacles, ensuring no one is left behind and enabling them to perform at their best. When an issue arises, I dive in and work closely with my team to overcome these hurdles to ensure our projects stay on course.
I also see myself as a facilitator who can help create a smooth workflow, particularly at the beginning of initiatives, and along the way, to ensure our projects are always aligned with the company’s goals. Once the foundation is set, I empower the team to take initiative to see the project through to the end. I’m there to provide guidance and support when needed, but I trust in their abilities to lead.
Recognizing and appreciating the efforts of every team member is essential to me, regardless of their location or role. By constantly striving to consistently acknowledge and support one another, I hope to foster a culture of mutual support that’s vital to our team’s success.
What is your proudest accomplishment or favorite memory from working at Hawaiian Host Group so far?
My proudest accomplishment at HHG so far would undoubtedly be the launch of the Hawaiian Host Chocolate Sauce – our first Japan-made product – back in 2019. This was a particularly memorable project because it wasn’t just a successful product launch; it was a collaborative effort that allowed me to work closely with Shuzo Nakayama San, our Sales Director, as project leaders. Together, we met with various manufacturers to make sure we got the taste, marketing, and promotion just right.
The project was both professionally fulfilling and a lot of fun. I learned so much through the process and getting to witness the evolution of the product from concept to finished good, and seeing it being sold under the Hawaiian Host Japan umbrella, gave me a lot of pride.
I am excited to take on this type of challenge once again, as we have just begun working on a new project, with an eye on the future: a “Made in Japan,” OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) initiative. I am determined to drive this project forward so that we can experience the same sense of accomplishment as we did in the past. Knowing that I will be able to achieve much more in the future keeps me eager to continue my journey with HHG.
HHG Spotlight Quick Takes
What is your favorite aspect about our company culture? At Hawaiian Host Group, we are very resilient. We can overcome anything – whether it is a global pandemic or something smaller – we figure out what we can do despite the obstacles before us. To me, this is one of the strongest points of our culture. I also appreciate the Aloha Spirit that runs throughout our company.
What is a quality or skill you think everyone should have? I think that everybody should adopt a growth mindset, have integrity, work as a team, take initiative, persevere, and practice fairness.
What is the best career advice you have ever received? The best pieces of advice I’ve received are, “In the end, trust my gut,” and “the future is waiting for you with a smile.” These statements remind me to work hard, believe in myself, and have faith that good things await me ahead.
What is your favorite HHG product? My favorite product is the Hawaiian Host Strawberries & Cream from the Paradise Collection. It tastes so good, and the packaging artwork is beautiful! My two runners-up are the Hawaiian Host Tiki Collection and Mauna Loa MOG flavored macadamias. The Tiki Collection has been around for almost 100 years, and I like the taste and product design. The MOG macadamias are the perfect snack to have with a beer – they are so good that it’s hard to stop eating them.
Mahalo, Harry, for all you do to unite our teams across the ocean, and for your commitment to taking Hawaiian Host Group and the team in Japan to the next level!
Are you interested in working with Harry and the rest of our team at Hawaiian Host Group? Check out our Careers page to see if we have an opportunity for you.