Macadamia nuts among hot commodities for thieves in Hawaii

(Photo Provided to KHON/Courtesy: Royston Kunimitsu)

(KHON) — Only in Hawaii do you find thieves stealing canned meats like Spam from stores.

But that’s not the only food item they target.

At the Walmart in Kunia, macadamia nuts are in locked boxes.

So why do people steal these particular items and where do they end up?

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said Spam and macadamia nuts are easy to resell because they’re so popular.

The theft of these products has businesses across the island looking for ways to combat the problem.

Yamaki says Spam, liquor, expensive wine, steaks, frozen shrimp bags, and macadamia nuts are popular items to steal.

“It’s something that everybody wants. Macadamia nuts, we have a lot of visitors come, and nuts in general are expensive to begin with,” said Yamaki.

Where do these stolen items end up?

“We’ve been told it’s organized retail crime, so people are using it to buy drugs,” said Yamaki. “People use it to barter drugs because it’s something that you can eat. It keeps well.”

A spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department said some stolen food items are traded for drugs. However, the majority of food and other items that are taken are sold for cash.

Yamaki also added that stolen items are also being sold in other stores.

“To do business in general is expensive, so I think some retailers when they are asked, hey, instead of spending $3 on Spam, you can buy for a dollar, some people have been taking it in unfortunately,” she said.

Nowadays, you’ll find products in locked boxes.

Other security measures include placing items behind the service counters, placing products at the front of the store, and working with other retailers and HPD at Retail Merchants of Hawaii’s monthly meeting.

“We kind of talk about hey, this person stole something here, be on the lookout, and kind of letting other retailers know as well,” Yamaki said.

24-Hour News 8’s sister station, KHON reached out to a few retailers about their security measures.

Times Supermarket said the most popular items stolen from their stores are Spam and corned beef, hard liquor, expensive red wine, frozen shrimp bags, steaks and roasts, and powdered baby formula.

“We start limiting products on shelves when losses are too great. Some stores keep certain products like corned beef at the service center, and liquor behind lock and key to prevent theft,” said Floyd Mikasa, director of operations.

A spokesperson for Walmart says the company could not disclose certain information citing security reasons, but told KHON security measures are put in place on a case-by-case basis.

Are locked boxes the future and will shoppers start seeing more of them on grocery shelves?

“I hope not. We still have faith in our customers. It’s unfortunate that a few bad apples make it worse for everybody,” said Yamaki, “I think some stores are locking it up. It depends what the items are.”

Yamaki says locked boxes may hurt sales, but not for all stores.

Retailers are asking for customers’ help. If you see anything suspicious, you are asked to tell the store clerk.