Coles is now selling a product that was previously prohibited in Australia, sparking a heated debate.
Kava, once banned from importation into Australia in 2007 due to its classification as a prohibited substance, saw its ban lifted in 2022, coinciding with Coles’ decision to stock the product.
Kava holds deep cultural significance across the Pacific Islands, where it is traditionally used in important ceremonies such as funerals, weddings, and marriages.
Grace Korovata, a woman of Fijian heritage now residing in country NSW, came across packets of Fiji’s native drink, Kava, on the supermarket shelves.
Grace took to TikTok and expressed her amazement at its availability in Australian supermarkets, calling it “crazy” and “ridiculous”.
“I’ve never seen kava sold like this ever, you usually have to buy it by the kilo in Fiji, now you can buy 50 grams in Coles,” she explains in her video.
@gracekorovata 50g for $16 is CRAZYYYY – served by the TEASPOON CMON NEOWW #fiji #kava #fijikava #australia #coles ♬ original sound – grace.korovata
The cultural significance is what drove Grace to make the now viral video and she told news.com.au that the discovery “saddened” her.
“It don’t sit right with me and if you see in my comment section a lot of people have the same views as I have on its cultural significance, how it’s supposed to be served, etc – particularly other Fijians/Pacific Islanders who understand kava,” she said.
“It’s not the product itself that I have an issue with, it’s actually quite nice, however it saddens me to see kava, a cultural device used within our communities, commercialised and watered down to make a profit and cater to an audience it’s simply not meant for.
However, the brand ‘Fiji Kava’ was established by a Fijian individual who currently resides in Brisbane.
According to the creator, the brand significantly contributes to the economic growth of the developing nation.
Presently, the brand falls under the supervision of Calmer Co, with CEO Anthony Noble expressing to news.com.au that the Fiji-sourced and locally made product available at Coles proudly supports the community it originates from.
“Our founder is Zane Yoshida, a Fijian from Levuka, who started the company in his home country in 2013,” he said.
“We operated a processing facility and a nucleus farm on the island and recently transitioned to sourcing through a network of more than 300 kava farmers and kava farming cooperatives all around Fiji as the business has scaled up.
“We also source from a network of supply hubs around the Fiji Islands, to maintain robust supply and are the only company who buys only directly from farmers.
“This means 100 per cent of money goes to the farmer, not middlemen. We also employ around 20 people in our Fijian operations, as well as one person in the USA and six here in the Brisbane warehouse and office.”
According to a spokesperson from Coles, the Fiji Kava Root Power has been available to customers since June 2022 and has gained popularity over the past year.
The partnership has received endorsement from the Fiji Consulate, expressing pride in supporting the success of Fiji Kava. They have collaborated in expanding their product in the Australian and New Zealand markets over the past few years.