Fairtrade comes of age with growth at 12%

As the Fairtrade Foundation gears up for its annual Fairtrade fortnight, new figures show that ethical goods are fast becoming a consumer favourite.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Last year, sales of Fairtrade products shot up by 12%. Consumers spent a whopping £1.32bn on the ethical sugar, coffee, bananas – even jewellery (up from £1.17bn in 2010). Many of the UK’s leading supermarkets have moved entire product ranges to their fairly-traded alternatives: all the Co-operative's own-brand tea coffee and sugar are Fairtrade; and Sainsbury's and Waitrose sell only Fairtrade bananas. Suffice to say, the 18-year-old campaigning body is definitely here to stay.

A Fairtrade label means that the workers who grew and harvested the raw materials in a product were paid fair wages. It also means that a 'Fairtrade premium' was paid to farmers for the crops: the Foundation tops up the price of Fairtrade produce when market values sink, which can then be used to invest in new equipment or into community projects. Nifty, huh?

Cocoa and sugar sectors have been the biggest growth drivers for the Fairtrade movement, with 34% and 21% increases over 2010 respectively. And the momentum is continuing into 2012: this week, Morrisons is poised to announce that it will move to Fairtrade for all bagged sugar, joining the Co-op, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Tesco in the do-gooder aisle (great news for Tate & Lyle, which manufactures the stuff). Once the switch over is complete, 42% of the UK’s bagged sugar will be Fairtrade. 

In cocoa land, the big players are equally enamoured with Fairtrade. Cadbury moved over to ethical beans for Dairy Milk back in 2009, and KitKat lovers will be pleased to know that their four fingers are also guilt-free. Maltesers is going Fairtrade later this year – proving that Fairtrade is still ‘on trend’. Even Unilever is sticking Fairtrade cocoa into its Ben & Jerry's ice-cream to leverage the brand’s ethical credentials.

Fairtrade has completely trounced the organic movement, both in growth and shelf-space. Likewise, no other 'fair trade' rival accreditations have managed to topple the Foundation's ubiquitous blue and green stamp of approval.

But the penetration of the Fairtrade movement is only really UK deep. Just 0.01% of all food and drink sales worldwide are certified, according to think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs. But this could all change, argues Fairtrade Foundation director Harriet Lamb. ‘A number of people have been sceptical about Fairtrade's ability to scale up,’ she says. ‘But in the 18 years since we started, we've hit 42% of UK retail sugar being Fairtrade.’

First stop, the UK, next stop, the world, eh Harriet?

Find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight

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