Kona Coffee Farmers Set to Receive Millions in Class Action Settlements

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White ceramic mug and saucer with coffee beans on brown textile; image by Mike Kenneally, via Unsplash.com.

Nearly 600 Kona coffee farmers will receive millions of dollars in a class action lawsuit in 2019.

A proposed settlement related to a 2019 class action lawsuit could result in an estimated 600 Kona coffee farmers receiving millions of dollars. The lawsuit was filed by Kona coffee growers Bruce Corker, Color and Melanie Bondera, and Robert and Cecelia Smith, against retailers who “falsely labeled green coffee beans as premium Kona coffee.”

Coffee beans; Image courtesy of pixel2013 via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

The defendants include Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Safeway, Kroger, Cost Plus / World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond and other distributors, wholesalers and retailers who “falsely advertise coffee as“ Kona ”that is not from the Kona region and which has violated the Lanham Act, which deals with false advertising. “

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs believed that “the defendants’ fraudulent practices have flooded the market with counterfeit Kona coffee products, hurt honest Kona farmers by cutting prices and misleading consumers into believing that Kona coffee is nothing special, which makes it less likely they would pay a premium price for the product in the future. “When Suzanne Shriner, the owner of one of the farms represented in the lawsuit, commented on the matter, she said:

“Everyone wants a piece of the Kona market because our brand value and reputation are high … But the counterfeits undermine our integrity. When people have a bad mug of fake Kona, they may not be ready to buy the real beans. Over time we lose our customer base. “

Fortunately for farmers like Shriner, many of the accused retailers and others are beginning to consent to settlements. Earlier this month, Costco, Marshalls and Gold Coffee Roasters reached an undisclosed amount agreement. In addition, the settlement, tentatively approved by the US District Court for the Western Washington District, will require “defendant coffee sellers to adhere to new labeling guidelines and require sellers to go through a certification process if coffee is labeled as originating in the Kona area . ”

Gold Coffee Roasters is due to pay $ 6.1 million and, according to the agreement, will “create detailed labeling obligations that will provide consumers with more information about Kona content and subject gold to stricter Hawaiian labeling laws nationwide.” In addition, the company will ensure that “any of its current or future products labeled as“ Kona ”accurately and clearly indicate on the front label of the product the minimum percentage of authentic Kona coffee beans contained in the product. Only Kona coffee that has been certified and rated as 100% Kona by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is considered authentic Kona coffee. “

Earlier this year, the court also approved preliminary settlements with other defendants, including BCC Assets, Cameron’s Coffee and Distribution Company, Copper Moon Coffee, Cost Plus Inc., and Pacific Coffee.

Under the most recent settlement agreements, the farmers involved in the lawsuit will receive a portion of the settlements on a pro-rata basis, less court-awarded attorney fees and costs, based on reported sales, less any voluntary contributions to the benefits of the Kona region. “

Swell:

Settlements for Kona coffee labeling exceed $ 13 million

Coffee growers in Hawaii hope that dispute resolution guarantees that the Kona in your cup is real