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UPDATE 1-Kona beer is not from Hawaii, consumers say in lawsuit
March 1, 2017 / 12:57 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Kona beer is not from Hawaii, consumers say in lawsuit

(Adds details from complaint, comment from defendant, paragraphs 4,6)

By Jonathan Stempel

Feb 28 (Reuters) - The maker of Kona craft beer was sued on Tuesday by two California shoppers who claim they were deceived into believing the beer was made in Hawaii, causing them to overpay for it.

Sara Cilloni and Simone Zimmer said Craft Brew Alliance Inc misleads consumers about the origin of its Kona Brewing Co beers, saying the fifth-largest U.S. craft brewer makes them in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state.

The plaintiffs said the alleged deception includes the use on labels of hula dancers, surfers, the Kilauea volcano, Waikiki beach, and other images and phrases associated with Hawaii, as well as beer names such as Big Wave Golden Ale, Castaway IPA, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Longboard Island Lager.

Despite this, nothing on the packaging makes clear where the beer is actually brewed, the complaint said.

“Consumers purchase items, and are willing to pay more for items, because they are from Hawaii,” the complaint said. “Craft Brew is well aware of this.”

A spokeswoman for Craft Brew Alliance said the company does not discuss pending litigation.

The Portland, Oregon-based company also owns the Redhook and Widmer Brothers brands, among others.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs was not immediately available for comment.

Tuesday’s lawsuit filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, seeks class action status and unspecified damages for Kona purchasers in that state and nationwide over four years.

It is one of a handful of lawsuits that have accused beer sellers of deceptive marketing.

On Feb. 10, Wal-Mart Stores Inc was sued in Ohio by a consumer who said it sold at a premium price what appeared to be craft beer under the Trouble Brewing brand, but that no such brewery existed and the beer was contract-brewed.

Meanwhile, in 2015 a federal judge approved a roughly $20 million settlement of claims that Anheuser-Busch InBev NV tricked consumers into thinking its St. Louis-brewed Beck’s beer was actually a German pilsner.

An Anheuser affiliate owns nearly one-third of Craft Brew Alliance, Reuters data show.

The case is Cilloni et al v Craft Brew Alliance Inc et al, U>S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-01027. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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