Stricter Kona Coffee Labeling Laws Introduced by Hawaiʻi Lawmakers

Kona lawmakers have introduced bills to impose more stringent labeling regulations on Kona coffee, in response to “deceptive labeling” concerns. The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture has provided economic justification for legislation to increase the minimum content required for a product to bear the Kona name on its packaging. Representative Nicole E. Lowen believes that requiring coffee labeled as ‘Kona’ to actually be 100% Kona beans will protect the value of the Kona name and support farmers’ ability to get the best prices for their products.

For over three decades, the debate over the required percentage of coffee originating from the geographic area to qualify as Hawaiian coffee has persisted, with existing regulations set at a minimum of 10%. In 2022, the Legislature passed Act 222, which requested the HDOA conduct a study on the impact of coffee labeling laws on coffee farmers and determine the economically ideal proportion of Kona beans in products marketed as Kona coffee.

The Final Report on the Economic Study on Changes in Coffee Labeling Law submitted by the HDOA on Jan. 18, 2024, 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. 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.

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