US-based supermarket chain Safeway has changed its label on packages of Kona coffee blends sold on the mainland, following a call by the Kona Coffee Farmers Association in Hawaii to boycott its 1,700 stores across the US.
In 2011, the grocer agreed to change the label on the products to add ‘10% minimum Kona blend’ when the association called for a boycott as farmers believed that the deceiving labels degraded Hawaii’s world-famous coffee reputation.
According to the Associated Press, the grocer was not subject to a law in Hawaii that requires labels reflect the percentage of Hawaii-grown coffee, as it does not sell the coffee blend in any of those locations.
The Kona Coffee Farmers Association told Safeway in a letter that the old packaging was still being seen on the shelves in some mainland stores and was disappointed that the company had not yet started selling pure Kona coffee.
A letter from Safeway vice president of public affairs Brian Dowling said it had no plans to destroy or dispose of its products with packaging used before the changes which may still exist on store shelves or elsewhere in the company’s distribution chain.
Dowling’s letter further said that Safeway, which had not yet been able to sell pure Kona coffee, still plans to do so.
The fight by the farmers against Safeway resulted in a $5m class-action lawsuit in federal court in Northern California claiming that the supermarket chain sold an inferior product with very little Hawaii-grown coffee and profited off the reputation of Kona coffee.