Categorized | Agriculture, Featured

Kona coffee farmers protest Safeway’s blend

Kona coffee farmers protest Safeway in Kona. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

About two dozen coffee farmers and supporters gathered outside the Kona Safeway store Thursday afternoon, protesting the grocery giant’s coffee blend.

Kona Coffee Farmers Association board member Bruce Corker said he was pleased with the turnout and hoped the protest would raise awareness and prompt Safeway to change it’s packaging to accurately reflect the amount of Kona coffee in its Safeway Select brand ‘Kona blend.’

“People have been driving by honking, so we have support,” he said. “We just hope that by showing up like this we can help Safeway do the right thing and clearly identify the Kona coffee in its blend. We hope people will join us in the boycott until Safeway accurately labels its coffee.”

Safeway came under fire from Kona coffee farmers after board member Paul Uster noticed a grocery store in California was offering a Kona blend medium roast coffee, but didn’t specify what percentage was made from Kona coffee or whether it was grown in Hawaii.

By law in Hawaii, that information is required for labels on Hawaii-grown coffee to inform consumers and protect the Kona brand.

The Safeway label does tout ‘savory beans from Hawaii’s Big Island’ and does specify it contains ‘100% Arabica coffee.’ Kona coffee is Arabica.

The Safeway Select brand packages. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

According to KCFA officials, the package sells for one-quarter the price of genuine Kona coffee as sold by Peet’s and Starbucks, and Safeway has admitted its coffee contains “some” Kona coffee. That coffee is not available at any of its 19 Hawaii locations.

“KCFA has no problem with retailers mixing coffee origins to make whatever blend they think their customers will enjoy,” Corker said. “But those mixtures should be accurately labeled so as not to mislead customers.”

KCFA president Colehour Bondera said, “Safeway’s deceptive labeling amounts to consumer fraud, damaging the economic interests of Kona coffee farmers and harming the historic reputation of one of Hawaii’s premier agricultural products.”

Safeway officials have said they are reviewing their blend and packaging and will have a reply for KCFA by Sept. 1. However, KCFA members felt that was too much time and staged their picket Thursday.

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association is a volunteer, non-profit, community-based organization of coffee farmers with the mission to promote and protect the economic interests of Kona coffee farmers who grow and sell 100% Kona coffee and to seek greater legal protection of the Kona coffee name.

For further information, contact Bruce Corker at 895-3850 or visit www.konacoffeefarmers.org

KCFA board member Bruce Corker at Thursday's protest outside the Kona Safeway. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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