Our History

The Beginning

Well over a century old, HC&S began as a small Maui sugarcane plantation founded by two childhood friends.

Augmenting their original investment in 12 acres below Makawao, Maui, with the acquisition of an additional 559 acres, Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin planted their first sugarcane crop in 1870 on their newly established Alexander and Baldwin plantation. Over the next three decades, they acquired a number of neighboring plantations that, together with their original plantation, formed Maui Agricultural Company.

During that time, the partners invested in the development of essential water resources for their 3,000 acres and neighboring plantations. The Hamakua Ditch was an elaborate system of tunnels, ditches, siphons, flumes and reservoirs built over 17 miles of mountainous terrain – an engineering feat that would help shape water reclamation and irrigation procedures used by major projects on the U.S. mainland.

In 1948, Maui Agricultural Company and HC&S merged, keeping the HC&S name and becoming the largest sugar producer in the United States. In 1962, HC&S merged with, and became a division of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.

ourhistory

Over time, generation after generation of Maui residents have brought their skills, ingenuity, commitment and community-mindedness to HC&S. We are proud of our company’s heritage and the important role it has played in Maui’s history.

Company Milestones

1870-1900

1870: A Company is born

Augmenting their original investment in 12 acres below Makawao, Maui with the acquisition of an additional 559 acres, Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin plant their first sugarcane crop in 1870 on their newly established Alexander and Baldwin plantation – a venture that marks the birth of what today is Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.

1878: Hawaiian Commercial Company is formed

Claus Spreckels of San Francisco, California founded Hawaiian Commercial Company (predecessor to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company) with a factory in Spreckelsville.

1878: Hamakua Ditch irrigation system completed

The Hamakua Ditch is completed, a 17-mile irrigation system of tunnels, ditches, siphons, flumes and reservoirs built to provide a reliable water source for over 3,000 acres of sugarcane belonging to A&B as well as several neighboring plantations. This engineering feat would help shape water reclamation and irrigation procedures used by major projects on the U.S. mainland, and today is A&B’s oldest subsidiary East Maui Irrigation Company.

1882: Hawaiian Commercial Company is incorporated and renamed HC&S

Hawaiian Commercial Company, established by Claus Spreckels, is incorporated and renamed Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company.

1898

Alexander and Baldwin gains a controlling interest in HC&S.

1901-1950

1918: Maui Agricultural Company produces ethanol to operate tractors

War and scarcity of fossil fuel results in HC&S embarking on the production of “etherized” alcohol from waste molasses to operate its tractors. This process forms no carbon in combustion and provides the same amount of mileage and power as gasoline at lower cost.

1948

HC&S merges with Maui Agricultural Company, making HC&S the largest sugar producer in the United States.

1950: HC&S replaces the railroad with tournahaulers

HC&S replaces the railroad as the main sugarcane transportation system, ushering in a new era of tournahaulers, the largest motor vehicles in Hawaii at the time, which were used to carry harvested cane from the field to the plantation’s two factories.

1951-2000

1962

HC&S merges with Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. and becomes a wholly owned division of the company.

1974-1999: HC&S installs drip-irrigation

Drip-irrigation is installed throughout the plantation at a cost of $30 million, making HC&S the largest contiguous farm in the United States – and possibly the world – to use this highly efficient and effective type of irrigation.

1999

HC&S begins marketing specialty food-grade sugar, primarily turbinado, under its new Maui Brand® label.

2001-Present

2008

Maui Brand® production expands with the opening of a new specialty sugar facility.

2010

HC&S is selected as the site for biofuels research under two federal grants – one from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the other under the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). DOE funding is managed through the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to conduct energy crop research at HC&S. The USDA will direct research initiatives for the ONR funding relating to biofuel crop modeling.

2014

HC&S partners with the University of Hawaii and Washington State University to improve harvesting technologies for biofuel crops.