Ironman apologizes and seeks forgiveness over coffee branding
Ironman officials are apologizing to the Big Island and its coffee community for introducing Guatemalan coffee as its official brand during the landmark Kona event.
"Ironman regrets its decision to make the announcement," said Blair LaHaye, communications director. "It is our sincerest hope that they can accept our apology and forgive us for our mistake," she said.
Kona's coffee community welcomes the apology and Ironman's additional steps, including removing Ironman Organic Coffee from Ironman Village, Lava Java and the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.
The coffee is being sold online, though not through Ironman's main portal.
Ironman has ceased local promotion of the coffee and purchased ads saying its "lapse in judgment was not malicious."
"The Big Island community is the foundation of the Ford Ironman World Championship and we respect your support and aloha over the past 27 years," it says.
"Without your kokua we would not have been able to create the experience that is Ironman. Your hospitality is our greatest asset."
The coffee announcement has been removed from the Ironman site and was pulled from the Kona media center by 2 p.m. Tuesday, said freelance journalist Karin Stanton.
"The president of the Ironman association called me and apologized profusely for their error in judgment," said Donna Woolley, president of the Kona Coffee Council. He also told her of plans for an Ironman-backed Kona coffee.
Considering its investment in promoting the now-pulled coffee, "I think that shows a lot of heart ... they have righted a wrong and I personally have no grudge to hold," Woolley said.
What a difference a day makes, when one can turn jeers to cheers.
"I think having the coffee removed from retail outlets was a responsible and generous gesture," said Malia Bolton, operations director of Kona Coffee and Tea Co.
The Kona Coffee Farmers Association has also risen from hurt to happy.
"They've done the right thing and we appreciate it," said Christine Sheppard, public relations chairwoman.
President Ken Sheppard is confident nobody will bear a grudge. "We will extend our aloha," he said. He figures planning for the Guatemalan launch began in a Florida boardroom, far from Kona's pride in its world-famous coffee.
They just ran into a "don't mess with Texas moment," he chuckled.
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