Kona coffee trouble brews between Safeway, farmers

Associated Press Modified: August 30, 2012 at 10:02 pm •  Published: August 30, 2012
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HONOLULU (AP) — A national grocer said it has changed its label on packages of Kona coffee blends, making good on a promise it made last year to a group of Hawaii coffee farmers.

But the Kona Coffee Farmers Association said Thursday Safeway hasn't fully honored that promise.

Last year, Safeway agreed to change the label on Kona coffee blend products sold on the mainland to add the word "10 percent minimum Kona blend." That was after the association called for a boycott of the company's 1,700 stores nationwide because farmers believed the labels were misleading and degraded the reputation of Hawaii's world-famous coffee.

Safeway doesn't sell the coffee blend in any of its Hawaii locations, so the company wasn't subject to a law in the Aloha State that requires labels reflect the percentage of Hawaii-grown coffee, which needs to be at least 10 percent for the state designation.

Instead, the state Department of Agriculture asked Safeway to voluntarily comply with Hawaii's law.

The grocer, which is based in Pleasanton, Calif., agreed and promised to begin selling 100 percent Kona coffee in some California stores.

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association has been watching Safeway closely for these changes. The association said in a letter to Safeway that members have seen the old packaging on shelves in some mainland stores and is disappointed the company hasn't yet started selling pure Kona coffee.

"Given the product shelf life, packaging used before the (changes) may still exist on store shelves or elsewhere in our distribution chain," said a letter from Brian Dowling, Safeway vice president of public affairs, adding that the company doesn't plan to destroy or dispose of those products.



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