excerpt below taken from the December 2013 edition of The Independent Voice
10% COFFEE BLEND MIGRATES TO KA’U
For more than 20 years the Honolulu coffee blenders have been deceptively marketing 10% Kona blends—and in the process taken money from the pockets of Kona coffee farmers and sent excess profits to their Mainland corporate owners. Now this misleading marketing practice has migrated to Hawaii Island’s Ka’u region [perhaps following the trail of the Coffee Berry Borer--another blight brought by the blenders with their imported green coffee?]. What do the farmers in Ka`u get out of this? Ka`u is a unique and important part of Hawaii’s history and they are willing to trade their valuable geographical identity to something that contains only 10% of their hard work? We know what the blender gets.
Take a look at these two links provided by an alert KCFA member:
http://www.hawaiicoffeecompany.com/royal-hawaiian/ and http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2013/11/25/chef-alan-wong-partners-on-new-hawaii.html
The first link is to the online description of Hawaii Coffee Company’s new “Ka’u Blend”. Note the repeated references to “Ka’u” and “Hawaii” and “Hawaiian” coupled with the absence of any express indication that 90% of the contents is imported commodity coffee and the absence of any identification of the origin of that commodity coffee.
The second link is even more interesting. This promotional article published by Pacific Business News on November 25, 2013, contains not a single word that would indicate to a reader that the “new brand” contains anything other than Ka’u coffee—when in fact 90% of the contents is foreign-grown.
Hawaii Coffee Company is a wholly owned corporate subsidiary of Paradise Beverages, Hawaii’s largest distributor of alcoholic beverages. Paradise Beverages is, in turn, a wholly owned corporate subsidiary of Topa Equities, a California-based company that is one of the largest business conglomerates in the United States.
to read the preliminary analysis of economist Marvin Feldman which suggests that over the decades there have been millions in “excess profits” earned by Hawaii Coffee Company and other blenders from using the “Kona” name on packages of 90% non-Kona coffee. Those excess profits—year after year–have been added to the bottom line the of the Mainland owners of Topa Equities. Now by similarly using the “Ka’u” name to extract premium prices for what is essentially ordinary commodity coffee, Hawaii Coffee Company is seeking to build yet another stream of “excess profits” flowing from Hawaii to the Mainland.
“Perhaps the most disappointing element of the rollout of this new brand”, said Kona Coffee Farmers President Cecelia Smith, “is that Chef Alan Wong, a world renowned chef, who says on his website: ‘An important (and enjoyable) responsibility we have in the community is to serve as a link and advocate for local farmers, growers, ranchers and producers. This means, not only using their product, but also bringing greater awareness to the public’ has endorsed this misleading use of the “Ka’u” name and has agreed to the use of his name on the label. Why? Any reputable professional coffee cupper will acknowledge that what is special about Ka’u and Kona coffee cannot be tasted when mixed with 90% commodity coffee. Hawaii’s renowned restaurants and chefs should be featuring genuine Hawaii agricultural products; they should be supporting Hawaii’s farmers; and they should not be assisting the Honolulu blenders in passing off foreign coffee under Hawaii regional names.”
The Branding Committee encourages KCFA members to send Chef Wong an email note indicating your disappointment. [email protected] -Submitted by the Branding Committee