© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Supporters of a measure restricting Hawaiʻi location names on coffee say it would protect integrity

Wikimedia Commons

A bag of coffee labeled “Kona coffee” is rarely 100% Kona grown. Under current law, a minimum of 10% of the blend’s weight must include coffee beans from the region to be labeled “Kona coffee.”

HB1517 will incrementally increase the percentage of geographic coffee required to be labeled under the name of the specified location — starting with 20% on July 1. In other words, more Kona coffee will be needed for it to be called Kona coffee.

The House Committee on Agriculture discussed the bill on Wednesday.

HB1517 also prohibits products to market themselves as “All Hawaiian” if the coffee is not entirely grown and processed in the Islands.

Gerard Bastiaanse is the president of Hawaiʻi Coffee Company – which sells retail under the Lion Coffee and Royal Kona brands.

He opposed the bill, saying, "Not only is it gonna change from a taste standpoint, but also price is gonna go up. Consumers are already getting hit by record inflation on food. The grocery store bills are getting much higher."

"I know we all see it ourselves, as well as read about it in the industry, and going through this change is going to increase the commodity price of coffee that people actually buy at the store, and it’s gonna increase their grocery bill at a time when people are financially struggling," Bastiaanse said.

He also argued that enforcing the bill will be difficult. Currently, coffee products claiming to be from Hawaiʻi are only inspected for authenticity if a complaint is filed to the state Department of Agriculture Quality Assurance Division.

Farmers are greatly in favor of the bill. Hawaiʻi Coffee Association executive director Chris Manfredi argued that the price increase is necessary to protect the integrity of local coffee, and because production costs are also increasing.

"The taste is different because the product that’s in the bag is not Hawaiian. These folks are not selling Hawaiian coffee. They’re using the 10% as a dodge to be able to put 'Hawaiian origin' on their packaging. We find that offensive," Manfredi stated.

HB1517 passed with amendments to remove the coffee processing requirement for products to be labeled as “All Hawaiian.”

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Related Stories