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Thursday
Sep012011

Safeway Agrees to Change Label for Kona Coffee Blend Packaging Sold on the Mainland

Great news for Kona coffee farmers.

Safeway has agreed to change the label on packages of Kona coffee blend sold in mainland stores in response to concerns from Hawaii farmers that it didn't provide information about what percentage of the famous bean it contains.

Safeway notified the Kona Farmers Association and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in a letter dated August 31, 2011, that the company will modify the package to show what percentage of Kona is included and that it will contain a minimum of 10 percent Kona beans. The label will also reflect the geographical location of the other beans used in the blend.  According to the Safeway letter the new packaging will be implemented July 2012.

"We hope that these actions demonstrate not only our desire to work collaboratively, but also our shared interest in preserving the integrity of the Kona bean," said the letter from Susan M. Houghton, director of Safeway public affairs and government relations.

In April, Hawaii's Board of Agriculture sent a letter to Safeway's corporate headquarters asking the company to comply with Hawaii's law requiring labels to specify the percentage of Hawaii-grown coffee that is included in a blend. The law requires that those blends have at least 10 percent of Hawaii-grown coffee.  The Hawaii Board of Agriculture could only ask for voluntary compliance since that packages of coffee isn't sold in Safeway's 19 Hawaii locations.

The association recently called for a boycott of Safeway's 1,700 stores nationwide because farmers believed the labels were misleading and degrading to the reputation of Kona coffee.  Earlier this month, Safeway officials met with Paul Uster, an association board member and owner of Mokulele Farms.  Uster was quoted as saying, "I think this is a great step for better truth in labeling on the mainland”.

More welcomed news to Kona coffee farmers - Safeway has also agreed to begin selling 100 percent Kona coffee in northern and southern California starting next year.

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