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Hawaiʻi lawmakers introduce new labeling bill for Kona Coffee

Hawaiʻi lawmakers introduce new labeling bill for Kona Coffee

February 01 - 2024

Coffee Geography Magazine


The debate over the required percentage of coffee originating from the geographic area to qualify as Hawaiian coffee has continued, with existing regulations set at a minimum of 10%. 

Last year, the lawmakers in the State of Hawaii introduced Act 222, which requested that the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture conduct a study on the impact of coffee labeling laws on coffee farmers and to determine the economically ideal proportion of Kona beans in products marketed as Kona coffee. 

Today, the legislators have reached to a common ground and introduce bills dedicated to imposing more stringent labeling regulations on Kona coffee. This comes in response to “deceptive labeling” concerns.

Hawaii-location-map

The report highlights that increasing the minimum amount of Kona coffee from 10% to either 51% or 100% would be advantageous for local farmers, with a higher increase providing the most benefit. Additionally, the report anticipates that proposed labeling changes could result in a price increase for Kona coffee while seeing minimal impact on quantities grown or sold. The new bills specifically addressed Kona coffee labeling laws:

HB2298 /SB2481 – Relating to Consumer Protection: Establishes a timeline by which roasted coffee, instant coffee, and ready-to-drink coffee beverages that use a geographic origin in labeling or advertising are required to contain a certain percent coffee by weight from that geographic origin. 


HB2613/SB2103 – Relating to Agriculture: Expands the criminal offense of false labeling of Hawaiʻi-grown coffee to include roasted coffee. Imposes a $10,000 fine for each separate offense of false-labeling of Hawaiʻi-grown roasted coffee. Makes an appropriation for 1.0 FTE enforcement position within the Department of Agriculture.

kona coffee region

Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii has hundreds of farmers producing one of the most expensive coffees in the world. 

Those farmers recently won a series of settlements — totaling more than $41 million — after a nearly five-year legal battle with distributors and retailers that were accused of using the Kona name in a misleading way.

The class-action lawsuit, aided by a novel chemical analysis of coffee from Hawaii and around the world, had prompted some companies to include the percentage of authentic Kona beans on product labels. The settlements have deterred others from selling fake Kona in the market. 

The Kona belt includes some 600 to 1,000 farms, typically smaller than five acres. The limited supply, labor costs and unpredictable pest problems put a high price on the beans, around $50 a pound or more.