Suit filed against retailers mislabeling Kona coffee

HILO (AP) — Hawaii coffee farmers have filed a lawsuit against major retailers after they said scientific tests confirm coffee frequently sold as being “Kona” is mislabeled, a report said.

Three coffee farmers said the lawsuit came after chemical tests completed in May revealed that some Kona coffee offered for sale was not what it was marketed as, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

The flavor from Kona coffee beans comes from volcanic soil on Hawaii island and scientific tests can isolate the unique chemicals, the owners of Rancho Aloha, Kanalani Ohana Farm and Smithfarm said.

They claimed that coffee had been mislabeled and that more than 20 million pounds of Kona-labeled coffee was sold when only 2.7 million pounds was grown annually.

“That is physically impossible; someone is lying about the contents of their ‘Kona’ products,” the farmers said in a statement.

Twenty-one major retailers including Walmart, Safeway and Costco are named in the lawsuit by the farmers who said that the sellers “wrongfully profited” from ordinary coffee.

There is no law prohibiting retailers from labeling coffee as Kona if it is sold out of state, the coffee supplier defendants said.

The only applicable law is a Hawaii statute that applies in the state and allows the term “Kona blend” for coffee containing 10 percent or more Kona beans, suppliers said.

Coffee suppliers have said Kona is not a trademarked name.