For decades, King’s Hawaiian has been known almost exclusively for its fluffy, almost pastry-sweet Hawaiian bread. And until recently, that bread has come in just a few forms: large round loaves and pull-apart dinner rolls.

But this summer, the Torrance company finally started making what seems like an obvious brand extension: hamburger and hot dog buns made with the classic Kings Hawaiian recipe. It’s the biggest addition to the company’s product offerings in years, and one that could rise.

“People don’t think about branding when they think of hot dog rolls, but people already know this brand. And someone like my wife, who really loves the King’s Hawaiian brand, if she were looking for hot dog rolls, it would be a natural thing to try,” said food branding consultant Steve Stallman of Stallman Marketing in Santa Clarita.

So, if it seems like such a winning strategy, why didn’t King’s Hawaiian branch out sooner? Likely because the company, which did not return calls for comment, is still a relatively small, family-run outfit that isn’t eager for change.

Founded by baker Robert Taira in Hilo, Hawaii, and transplanted to the mainland in 1977, the company has grown from a single bakery in Torrance to a small empire. It now has two massive bakeries, distributes products nationwide and even operates a handful of restaurants.

Through all that growth, the company has added only a few products over the years, most recently sandwich rolls in 2009.

“You get set in your ways,” Stallman said. “You put out a great product, you try to do it well. But any manufacturer should constantly be thinking, ‘How can I increase my sales?’”

– James Rufus Koren

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