After Kona coffee growers called for Safeway, Inc. to comply with Hawaiian regulations on labeling Kona coffee, a California resident filed a putative class action against the company in federal court, alleging that its Safeway Select™ “Kona Blend” coffee contains “very little Kona coffee bean content.” Thurston v. Safeway, Inc., No. 11-04285 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., filed August 30, 2011). Seeking to certify nationwide or statewide classes, the plaintiff calls the company’s labeling false and misleading and contends that she “did not receive the ‘Kona Blend’ she bargained for when she purchased Safeway’s Kona Blend Coffee, and has lost money as a result in the form of paying a premium for Kona Blend coffee” instead of paying less for a non-Kona or low- Kona coffee alternative.
The plaintiff alleges common law fraud, violations of various consumer fraud statutes and restitution based on quasi contract or unjust enrichment. She requests restitution, compensatory and punitive damages, an injunction to stop Safeway from “advertising its products misleadingly, in violation of California’s Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law and other applicable laws and regulations,” attorney’s fees and costs. According to a news source, the Safeway product costs $8.99 a pound, while pure Kona coffee can sell for $25 for 8 ounces. Hawaii requires Kona coffee labels to specify what percentage comes from the Kona bean and whether it was grown in the state. See West Hawaii Today, August 6, 2011.