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Big Island officials want tighter laws to use Hawaiʻi names on coffee labels


HILO, Hawaiʻi — A Hawaiʻi County Council resolution is asking state lawmakers to restrict the use of Hawaiʻi location names on coffee packaging.

The resolution, which passed unanimously last week, calls for laws that would require coffee blends to be at least 51% Hawaiʻi-grown to use local geographic names such as Kona in their labeling.

Currently, distributors can use Hawaiʻi names on coffee blends containing only 10% of beans from the named region.

Hawaiʻi coffee farmers testified at a meeting on Wednesday that the use of their regional names is limiting profits and damaging their brand.

Ten percent "blends take millions of dollars each year from Hawaiʻi family coffee farms, and that money is sent as excess profits to the owners of the … blenders on the mainland,” said Big Island coffee farmer Bruce Corker.

“When consumers are misled into believing that ‘Kona’ blends are (genuine) Kona coffee, and they are disappointed by the taste of those blends, our heritage coffees … are permanently damaged,” Corker said.

Hundreds of Kona coffee farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against major coffee sellers in 2019 for falsely advertising coffee blends.

Some of those companies have offered preliminary settlements totaling more than $13 million.

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