Did Manuel Nobriga know when he began crafting ice cream from scratch at Maui Soda & Ice Works in Wailuku in 1932 that he would be leaving an enduring legacy that would be perpetuated and celebrated for many generations?

Well, as it turns out, Manuel’s ideas, formulas and methods have become the blueprint for a cherished family recipe that would expand to more than 70 flavors over time. “Roselani” was to become a household name on Maui and their family’s delicious dessert would become an integral part of special occasions across the islands for nearly a century. Through four generations of hard work, consistency, integrity and heart, Maui Soda & Ice Works, LTD, remains a truly remarkable family  business.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Strolling the frozen food aisle of your local grocer, you can’t miss the iconic, bright pink Lokelani Rose on the carton of Roselani Ice Cream. The Lokelani Rose, or “heavenly rose,” is the official flower of Maui. “Roselani” is the combination of “Lokelani” and “Rose.”

“It honors my grandfather’s and my father’s identity,” said Catherine Nobriga Kim—or Auntie Cathy, as many called her— the late company leader and beloved granddaughter of Manuel,  when receiving Honolulu Magazine’s Hale ‘Aina Award.

It remains a premier accolade in Hawai‘i’s food industry and one among many honors this family business holds dear. Cathy, her four brothers and her cousins ran and expanded this division of Maui Soda & Ice Works after her father and respected business pioneer, David “Buddy” Nobriga, retired in 2000.

“A rose is the best you can give for every special occasion,” said Cathy. “It’s the queen of perfection.”

The Nobrigas continue to create their recipe for success through time-honored traditions, quality ingredients, loyal relationships and local revenues.

Manuel Nobriga laid the foundation for his family’s legacy.

Manuel Nobriga laid the foundation for his family’s legacy

A Family Tradition of Excellence Begins

Loyal fans of this sweet staple will find comfort in knowing this is a true local business, crafted with aloha on Maui, right on Lower Main Street in Wailuku, with radiant ‘Īao Valley as a backdrop. The family has spent millions of dollars on renovations, including a facelift and expansion of the factory and grounds where rice paddies existed over 100 years ago.

The foundation of the business was built with blocks of ice 140 years ago. Iceboxes were our first refrigerators. The blocks of ice that filled them were big business in the tropics. Kahului was the portal through which this revolutionary good was delivered throughout the middle of the Pacific. Maui Soda & Ice Works was birthed from a business model focusing on being the ice company, delivering blocks by horse and cart from what is now Kahului Harbor.

Manuel started working at Maui Soda & Ice Works in 1922, and over the next decade, he would plant the seeds that his family would grow over the next century. Maui Ice Cream leased space at Maui Soda in 1931 when Manuel was working there. Maui Soda & Ice Works bought it the following year.

“The Wadsworth family brought refrigeration to Maui and it was a total gamechanger,” says Cathy’s brother, James Nobriga, vice president of distribution and
facilities at Maui Soda & Ice Works.

The Nobriga family acquired the Maui Soda & Ice Works company and property from the revered Wadsworth Family in 1946. The Wailuku headquarters continues to grow successfully under their careful watch.

“We fortunately got their equipment for making ice cream and were able to keep it going,” says James.

David “Buddy” Nobriga expanded business and connected with the community.

David “Buddy” Nobriga expanded business and connected with the community.

Manuel and son David, James and Cathy’s father, researched ice cream and experimented for many years, but it was Auntie Cathy who was known as the Nobriga with the best hand at ice cream making and tastebuds for creating flavors. In 1972, they introduced the Roselani Ice Cream brand name, using the same methods and base recipe Manuel crafted in that facility 40 years prior.

Their commitment to excellence and tradition, along with being in the right place at the right time, has provided tasty opportunities for the Nobrigas.

The Maui Soda & Ice Works of today is comprised of three divisions: ready-to-drink beverages, food service beverages and frozen fare. Locally owned and operated since 1884, the company just commemorated 140 years on Maui and a century with Coca-Cola.

The ice cream division is in its 92nd year. Presently, Maui Soda & Ice Works distributes 463 items, including 42 flavors of Roselani’s premium ice cream and sherbet.

Maui Soda Works Logo

Coca-Cola Connection & Centennial

If you have enjoyed a fountain Coca-Cola on Maui, say mahalo to Maui Soda & Ice. But without its relationship to Coca-Cola for the last century, the “Coca-Cola True, Roselani Proud!” company’s ice cream may have not been widely distributed.

Coca-Cola came to town via the harbor during WWI and WWII. Maui Soda & Ice Works was its official bottling manufacturer from 1924 until the end of the 1980s. Since then, the business model with Coca-Cola has been both manufacturing and distribution. The Nobrigas are responsible for keeping the bubbly beverage flowing across Maui.

Inside the facility are display cases full of Coca-Cola artifacts, plaques and ribbons.

Inside the facility are display cases full of Coca-Cola artifacts, plaques and ribbons.

Buddy James Makana Aloha Nobriga, aka, “Buddy,” James’s son, is the fourth generation to steer the ship, serving as operations manager of Roselani, and the director of sales and marketing for Maui Soda & Ice Works, so he oversees Coca-Cola distribution, as well.

The key to growth is in its retail and foodservice business while maintaining the authenticity of their original ice cream. Ice cream is not as big of a business as soda and beverage distribution, and Buddy shared how difficult it can be to find refrigeration and frozen storage on Maui. “It makes business sense, so we also store and distribute bigger brand names since we are already delivering,” he explains.

“We’re looking forward to a gala this year for our 100 years with Coke, which will be held on Nov. 16, with Coca-Cola presenting us with a 100 Years plaque,” says Buddy.

Steered by Stewardship

The Nobrigas believe in taking care of its people and the community that supports them. Those cherry-red refrigeration trucks with the classic Coca-Cola logo cruising the Valley Isle are integral to Maui Soda & Ice Works. They rolled right into action following the tragic fires in Lahaina in August 2023, delivering cold goods and donations, doing what they could at hubs distributing food and supplies for those affected.

Before that, during the struggles of COVID, the company donated products and gave back to the community in any way it could, even while dealing with supply and workforce issues of its own.

“Growing up, my grandfather really instilled in us community stewardship,” said Buddy. “We understand we wouldn’t be here without those people in the community that support us. We take it seriously in our company culture and family culture. Giving back isn’t in question—it is part of our framework.”

Everyone in the family extends their aloha— from serving the community to sitting on school boards. Buddy served as board chair for the County of Maui Department of Water Supply. He took his shot at a Maui County Council seat a few years ago, but in reality, there may not have been enough hours in the day to accomplish that goal. He focuses on family and business operations, and of course, being the head taste tester at Roselani. “I got ice cream to test,” he says.

Generations of Goodness

Roselani Ice Cream, a family business founded on flavor, celebrations and history, has a motto that is printed on each carton of ice cream: “Driven by legacy, crafted with Aloha, one batch at a time.” For 92 years, powered by four generations, the Nobriga family continues to create  “Maui’s Own Ice Cream,” slow-cooked to perfection in their historic plant, utilizing Manuel’s template for making a one-of-a-kind ice cream with velvety texture and rich flavor.

Catherine Nobriga Kim remains the heart and soul of Roselani

Catherine Nobriga Kim remains the heart and soul of Roselani

Manuel’s flavor formulas were so well received on Maui from 1932 onward, that he continued to create his recipes for ice cream parlors and wholesale alike until he retired in 1971. He passed the apron onto his son David “Buddy” Nobriga, who assumed the leadership roles of running the cattle ranch and the trucking company. He worked tirelessly to make his dad’s ice cream more accessible. By the mid-1980s, Roselani’s ice cream was being produced in half-gallon “bricks” to be sold in mom-and-pop grocery stores on Maui.

David later appointed his daughter (Catherine Nobriga Kim, Auntie Cathy) as vice president of the company and operations manager of Roselani. She elevated and diversified Roselani during her time, including developing the renowned Roselani Tropics line in 1989 and starting neighbor island distribution in 1999 with O‘ahu. In 2019, she helped lead the introduction of a new retail carton for the Tropics line, a 48-ounce carton more compliant with industry standards and a more practical size for consumers.

She appointed Buddy, her godson and eldest nephew, as operations manager in 2017, and he remains the driving force, taking Roselani into a new era for the next generation.

Never sacrificing quality by cutting corners is one of the reasons Roselani is also known as “Maui’s Best Ice Cream,” as evidenced by the array of accolades gracing their headquarter walls and spilling across tabletops.

Buddy James Nobriga keeps the recipes safe for the next generation

Buddy James Nobriga keeps the recipes safe for the next generation

One of their many awards is the prominent 2015 TASTE Award, the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award from Hawai‘i Food Manufacturers Association for Roselani Ice Cream’s history of distinguished service, industry inspiration and lasting contributions.

“In a world of corporate consolidation, it’s pretty tough to keep going, but we do,” says Buddy. “As my grandfather said, ‘For the Portuguese, sometimes that stubbornness works out.’”

Keeping It Local

Although the notion of mom-and-pop business gets thrown around a lot across the Aloha State, year after year, more of them are either disappearing or expanding so rapidly that they lose their essence by forfeiting control.

The Nobrigas are committed to keeping local families and individuals employed for many years. Maui Soda & Ice Works employs just under 80 employees, all on Maui and Lāna‘i, with 40% employed 25 years or more.

“For me personally, it has been a family standard in all our businesses,” says Buddy. “I take great pride in being a locally owned business with all of our staff from here or living here, and the revenue generated staying here. That’s so important. In these unprecedented times of transition and rebuilding, we owe it to one another, but moreover, to those who worked so hard. We have an opportunity to keep making this magic happen on Maui.”

Maintaining relationships with suppliers is also part of their model, but it has been challenging at times. COVID and the recent fires have closed a variety of small businesses, including one they worked with for over 35 years. “It’s really tough. Our hearts go out to the businesses and the people whose lives were forever changed. We need to be here for them and stand strong—onipa‘a. All will be better as we honomua—move forward together as one Maui Strong for all generations.”

“We source locally as much as possible, but sometimes that can get you into trouble,” said Buddy. They honor the recipe and ingredients as true to the original as possible. “If I can’t get the exact same ingredients, our customers will notice. They will call and hold you accountable.”

“We are very ingredient sensitive, and our customers will let us know if there is even a slight difference,” said Buddy. “Our customers have always had a voice, and we listen… I think it’s one of the reasons we stay successful.”

Buddy is not only the main ice cream taste tester, he also tends multiple email inboxes of customer inquiries and answers phone calls. “I’m never afraid to talk to a customer… we’re the kind of business where they talk to the source.”

Three cartons of Roselani Ice Cream

Three cartons of Roselani Ice Cream

Family Matters

From the 1970s through the early 2000s, multiple siblings from multiple Nobriga families worked at Maui Soda & Ice Works at the same time, plus in-laws. “They laid the foundation for what we have today,” says Buddy.

“Half of our company have been here over 20 years, and some people I work with now—my aunties and uncles— have been here 40-plus years,” says Buddy. “They knew me when I rode my bicycle around the Wailuku site. This was our playground.”

James and his siblings also grew up there. Nobriga keiki were always part of the business.

Today, Buddy’s father, James, has an office across the hall from him. Buddy’s cousin and brother also work within the company.

And now, Buddy’s keiki are running around the lot and completing homework onsite. Buddy fell for an O‘ahu girl and they have four beautiful keiki under the age of 12 who consider themselves “official taste tasters” for Roselani Ice Cream.

Although his children are still young, he hopes they will eventually continue the family legacy. The future of its growth will be in their hands.

A Godmother’s Legacy

Auntie Cathy

Auntie Cathy

Auntie Cathy diligently studied how to make their ice cream. She created their Tropics line— a go-to for residents and visitors alike. Favorites include the Banana Mac Crunch, Chocolate Mac Nut, Kona Mud Pie and the most sought-after flavor, Haupia, a coconut pudding creation.

Buddy took the reins of the ice cream division “by default and choice” in 2017. His godmother, Auntie Cathy, had to take on a bigger role in the company. “She took me under her wing,” said Buddy. “She’s still the heartbeat of the business.”

Cathy worked at the plant since she was 15, later leading as president and general manager. Brian Fevella, who has been with the company for 46 years, took over after Auntie Cathy suddenly passed away from cancer in 2020. The Nobrigas are forever grateful for Brian and the ‘ohana who dedicate themselves to this business.

Lokelani Rose bushes bloom outside the Wailuku home of Roselani Ice Cream, and Auntie Cathy’s bright spirit and incredible work continue. One of their latest and most special flavors honors her with a pink rose lei gracing the cartons, in support of breast cancer awareness. Aloha Cherry Truffle is black cherry ice cream with fudge swirl and black cherries—a fantastic flavor developed by Cathy. The lei honors their company angel, whose spirit can still be felt within the walls of the team’s historic plant on Lower Main Street.

“My grandfathers and aunt shine down on us,” says Buddy. “She is missed, but it is a privilege to carry on. It’s much more than pride—the word ‘pride’ is not enough.”

Auntie Cathy created many of the recipes, so Buddy is now in charge of them. He works hard to keep each and every flavor as true as possible to the original.

His first creation was ube, purple sweet potato goodness, which has been going over well.

The Nobriga family has crafted something so special and shared it with so many, their customers and supporters develop a sense of pride and appreciate its dependable consistency.

The variety of flavors offered by Roselani

The variety of flavors offered by Roselani

What’s the Scoop? Modern Moves & Future Plans

Buddy’s idea of the pint line was a welcome addition to the company, attracting a whole new group of fans. COVID had halted its release in 2020, but Roselani was able to launch pints in May 2023, after four members of the Nobriga family from Buddy’s generation collaborated with designers to give the packaging a fresh facelift.

“It was a drastic change from the original packaging, but we made it through,” says Buddy. “I swing for the fences. I don’t have time to bunt.”

The company completely overhauled its production facility to make it a reality. The pint allows a new group to taste the flavors they normally wouldn’t, as many were only available through wholesale outlets.

As with any artisanal, quality product made from scratch on Maui, the price point is higher than many mainstream brands.

“We could definitely bring down the price by making it on the mainland, but it wouldn’t be the same,” says Buddy. “Not everything is about the dollar, but rather, keeping quality.”

Roselani is distributed statewide for now, with a dream of going national. They are always exploring opportunities and vowing to never sacrifice taste.

A Recipe for Success

With a goal to be Hawai‘i’s best ice cream for generations to come, it’s vital to protect precious recipes.

“We hold our recipe secrets close, including our traditional process for creating the ice cream,” says Buddy. “I like to say we make it just how great-grandfather made
it 92 years ago.”

They honor the game plan, maintain the great taste and keep the same high standards since the beginning. Three generations of their family have studied physics. Crafting Maui’s favorite ice cream for over 90 years takes brilliance.

It’s the unique way that the butterfat is crafted that gives Roselani its silky texture and smooth finish. Because of the butterfat content, it is best to place your carton in the refrigerator for a half-an-hour before scooping— or pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds, the Nobrigas advise.

Whatever you are craving, Roselani can satisfy. With this rainbow of flavors, you may think Buddy would have an exotic favorite, but he is in love with Gourmet  vanilla. Buddy was taught everything starts with how a good vanilla is made. “As a fourth-generation ice cream maker, I have to have that palate,” he says.

Hawaiian Vanilla Bean is his other favorite. The vanilla has come from a family farm on Hawai‘i Island for the last 20 years. The farm’s orchids, the source of the vanilla beans, is so vital to the recipe, that Roselani cannot produce the flavor without them. Thankfully, this iconic flavor is available via retail sales.

Maui’s Ice Cream

Roselani Ice Cream is not just about a dessert. The stories of celebrations are what it’s all about for the Nobriga ‘ohana.

“It is a part of their lives… that’s what it is to me,” Buddy shares with emotion. “Yeah, it’s an ice cream, but also a part of their fondest memories.”

James Nobriga (Cathy’s brother and Buddy’s dad) is a strong but mild-mannered man who serves as vice president of distribution and facilities. “People allow us to be a part of their celebrations, inviting us to being a part of their lives and their children’s lives,” he says. “It’s humbling.”


Buddy played seven sports growing up, doing his best to keep busy so he “didn’t have to work” at the plant in Wailuku. “I tried really hard to avoid it when I was younger, and came back here after attending business school on the mainland,” he says. “Now, I’m in the right place.”

Buddy realizes the pressure of heading operations of a company, but also says that in a family business, job titles don’t mean anything. He understands what “has to be done, has to be done and this is a team effort on every level.”

“It’s my job to steward this, so the next generation has the opportunity,” says Buddy. “It’s not mine, I didn’t start it, I can only add to it, make it better and make sure it’s there for whoever is willing to take it forward.”

Ice, soda and ice cream stand the test of time within the ebb and flow of small business, and the Nobrigas have achieved a historic level of success by walking their talk, staying true to their ancestors and leaders before them, and running a company with ingenuity, a strong work ethic and true aloha.

Buddy loves to be a part of the process. He walks the entire property once a day he when he is not traveling.

“For me, I was raised that kuleana is not a responsibility; it is a gift,” Buddy says, while tearing up. “When things get tough here, I just remember it is a gift. It is special.”

Find markets across the Aloha State that carry Roselani Ice Cream by visiting roselani.com.