By Templars Founder JP Perkins
Imagine kicking back with a beer with a name like Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, or Wailua Wheat Ale. Images of Swaying girls in grass skirts, big waves and surfboards, palm trees and leis all bringing to mind the beautiful island lifestyle that is...New Hampshire??? This imagery is now at the root of a new potential class action lawsuit against Craft Brew Alliance, the parent company of Kona, and several other brands.
Two California residents claim that Craft Brew Alliance is misleading shoppers into believing they’re buying beer brewed in the Aloha State. When in reality the company produces its bottled beer and mainland draft in mainland breweries located in Oregon, Washington state, Tennessee and New Hampshire. A lawyer for the two plaintiffs states that “Plaintiffs would not have purchased the beer or would have paid significantly less for the beer, had they known the true origins of the Kona Brewing Co. beer they purchased,” The lawsuit says “The entire brand image of Kona Brewing Company – including the name itself – revolves around its purported Hawaii origins. Craft Brew ubiquitously uses Hawaii imagery, references, metaphors, and outright misstatements in order to cultivate this image.”
For it's part Kona points out that nothing on it's website states that the beer is brewed in Hawaii and Although most of their beers are not brewed in Hawaii, according to Kona's website, the beer brewed at partner breweries is made with hops, malt and proprietary yeast from the island state. The mineral levels of the water used are also reportedly tweaked to replicate the water used in Hawaii and samples sent to the head brewmaster in Hawaii for evaluation and comparison at their Kailua-Kona Brewhouse
Photo Credit: Shannon Phares
That however doesn't go far enough alleges the lawsuit pointing out that the entire brand and imagery are designed to elicit a response out of consumers. who could reasonably assume the beer was made in Hawaii, and made the purchase based on that assumption.
Kona isn't the first brewer to come under fire for allegedly deceptive marketing practices. Recently, Anheuser-Busch agreed to settle a $50 million class action suit over allegations that it fooled customers into thinking Beck's beer was from Germany when the U.S. bottles are actually made in St. Louis. And in 2015, a New York City man sued Foster’s beer for allegedly deceiving him into thinking the company's beer brewed in Texas was actually made in Australia.
Somehow I also doubt it will be the last.