Kona Coffee Farmers’ four year litigation ended with $12 million settlement
April 29 - 2023
Coffee Geography Magazine
Kona coffee farmers and ABC Stores reached to a preliminary settlement with $12 million to be paid for all the damages done to the farmers. The four year litigation is now ended in which the farmers alleged in early 2019 that more than 20 defendants including MNS Ltd which operates ABC stores were selling mislabeled ground coffee and beans claiming they are from Kona. The preliminary deal was filed in Washington federal court on Monday. Once complete, the total amount recovered in the suit — which has included 12 previous settlements — will surpass $33 million.
The complaint was based on the premise that only coffee grown in Kona can be labelled as coming from Kona. The Kona farmers conducted scientific testing of the coffee products before filing the suit, which found that “the coffee marketed and sold by Defendants as ‘Kona’ coffee in fact contained little or no such coffee,” according to a motion for preliminary approval.
The region’s coffee growers have long bristled with outsiders’ use of the Kona name, as companies leverage the region’s global recognition to sell coffee with very little, if any, coffee from the area. As part of the preliminary settlement, MNS Ltd. has also agreed that any coffee it sells labelled as “Kona” or “Kona blend” will be labelled “accurately and unambiguously” and in agreement with the Hawaii-Grown Coffee Law, which carries several requirements.
The Kona farmers sued several other big name retailers for claiming the Kona name, including Amazon, Walmart, TJ Maxx’s parent company and Costco. The farmers dropped a handful of claims but Costco settled its suit in a moneyless agreement last year. The big box store agreed to labelling guidelines for its vendors.
Three Hawaii-based coffee producers were also defendants in the suit, one of which being the final remaining defendant in the suit. The proceedings for that defendant, Muvaldi Corporation, are currently on pause due to bankruptcy.