A biofuels company is making big waves with sunflowers on Maui. On 200 acres south of Kahului, where sugar cane was once grown, Pacific Biodiesel is now raising giant yellow flowers whose seeds are pressed into a pure oil. .
That oil powers vehicles but also is used in soothing spa treatments and dishes at high-end restaurants.
“The spas are using it mainly for massage oils. They love it,” company founder Bob King said. “Now the chefs have started … tasting it and they said, ‘We’ve never had sunflower oil that tastes like this. It’s different. It’s special. It’s unique.’ ”
King said his product tastes and smells different because it hasn’t gone through the bleaching, deodorizing and refining processes that competitors use. He has found a better way to press the oil of the sunflower seeds and still keep the price competitive.
It has also been embraced by Isaac Bancaco, executive chef at the hotel’s Kaana Kitchen.
Bancaco has already used the oil in a seafood-and-greens salad and plans to incorporate it into further dishes in the coming weeks.
King said that oil used for cooking will be recycled and turned into fuel, completing the cycle for what the company calls its “blooms of sustainability.”
Kuleana products are sold at the Awili Spa and online.