Safeway agrees to change labeling of its “Select Kona Blend” coffee

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KAILUA KONA, Hawaii – By letter dated August 31, 2011, Safeway Stores notified the Kona Coffee Farmers Association and Russell Kokubun, Chairman of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, that it will make requested modifications in the labeling of “Safeway Select Kona Blend” coffee sold by Safeway on the US Mainland.

In July the Kona Coffee Farmers Association called for a nationwide boycott of all Safeway stores in response to Safeway’s disregard of concerns about deceptively labeled “Safeway Select Kona Blend”. The KCFA’s Boycott resolution also noted that Safeway had for more than four months failed to respond to a letter from HDOA Chairman Russell Kokubun sent to Safeway “strongly urging voluntary compliance with our coffee labeling laws”.

On August 2, 2011, Safeway Director of Public Affairs & Governmental Relations Susan Houghton and other Safeway officials met with KCFA Board member Paul Uster at Safeway headquarters in Pleasanton, California, to review the concerns of Kona coffee growers. Ms. Houghton committed to review those concerns and to determine “[w]hether or not we can increase the Kona blend to the 10% criteria cited by the Hawaii labeling law on coffee.”

In her August 31 letter Ms. Houghton states that Safeway agrees:

1—The Kona blend packaging will be modified to reflect that the Kona “blend” coffee will contain a minimum of 10 percent Kona beans; and

2—The Kona blend packaging will be further modified to indicate the geographical location of other beans used in the blend.

Safeway has also committed to offer packages of 100% Kona coffee to Safeway customers in California, beginning next year.

Colehour Bondera, President of the KCFA, in responding to Ms. Houghton has stated, “I want to express to you my thanks, and that of Kona’s coffee farmers, for the decision of Safeway to follow the requests of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association and Russell Kokubun, Chairman of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture….We believe these are important steps toward fair labeling and fair use of the Kona name.”