News Update

Fair Trade: A Sweet Deal

Posted September 30th 2011

Article for Brandon Sun Small World Column, Monday, October 3rd, 2011, by Zack Gross

Fair trade Gummy Bears? You can’t mean it! Yes, fair trade principles have penetrated the confections industry and I’m about to chow down on my first helping of fair trade certified gummy bears, with a choice of plain or sour! Not only that, but I can now get Belgian chocolate-style seashells, chocolate and chocolate/hazelnut spreads and Coke-like fair trade soft drinks! It must be true, then, that fair trade is a sweet deal!

Of course, it has been documented in this column in the past that Cadbury’s led the charge of confection companies when it adopted fair trade chocolate for one size of its Dairy Milk bars in the summer of 2008 in Britain and Ireland, and then the following summer in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Today, you can find fair trade Dairy Milk in all sizes and the new Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons (Oh, so good!) are also fair trade certified.

Sales of fair trade products in the United Kingdom had jumped by 43 percent in 2008 to a value of 700 million pounds and were set to increase by another 200 million thanks to Cadbury’s. Other companies in Britain, like Mars, have gone another route, certifying through the Rainforest Alliance, which has environmental but not the labour guarantees needed for fair trade certification.

While it hasn’t been as easy to get Cadbury’s fair trade products into the US market (Hershey’s controls Cadbury’s US and is not interested), other smaller companies’ chocolate sales increased in sales in 2010 by 19%. Overall, fair trade sales were up 24%. Fair Trade US has said that the increase was due to the 700 mainstream retail companies that have begun to sell ethical and green products. explains that increased availability of products such as cocoa have made it possible for companies to depend on reliable amounts of fair trade products.

Kraft Foods, the parent company of Cadbury’s, was excited to announce the arrival of the fair trade certified Dairy Milk Bar in South Africa in June of this year. It is estimated that South Africans will consume 1.5 million of these yummy and politically/environmentally correct bars in their first year of availability. It is remarkable that the Kraft web site itself extols the virtues of fair trade and commits itself to supporting social responsibility. “Fair trade certification makes sure that small-scale farmers, workers and their communities enjoy better working and living conditions through fair prices, good labour practices, community development efforts and environmental sustainability”, it says.

In Australia, chocolate has now overtaken coffee as the biggest fair trade seller. Consumer recognition of the fair trade certification label jumped from 23% to 37% between September 2009 and November 2010, thanks to Cadbury’s, as well as Green & Black’s, Nestle’s Kit Kat and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. These kinds of figures are true for Canada as well. In Manitoba, a survey of 1000 random consumers found that 56% could define fair trade and 37% purchase fair trade products regularly.

The global recession has affected the sales of many products both old and new. Thus, sales of fair trade products have been flatter in the US and non-English speaking European countries, while Britain and its “former colonies” have led the way in increases. While fair trade remains a niche market, predicts that sales will return to 25% annual increases when the recovery arrives.

The small-scale nature of fair trade production and the existence of a consumer group willing to pay a little more for quality, service and social responsibility means that the fair trade market is open to smaller companies who are more able to trace their products’ origins. Thus, opportunities will continue to be available to smaller firms and co-ops in the fair trade market as well as to larger corporations taking the plunge to grab a share of the market or to meet goals as good corporate citizens involved in ethical purchasing.

So, back to the fair trade gummy bears! When you shop for coffee at your local supermarket, you may have noticed that this particular section of the store contains a growing percentage of fair trade options. Along with the ubiquitous cheaper brands, you find Green Bean, Ethical Bean, Best of Seattle organic/fair trade, Salt Spring, Level Ground and more. The same is happening with candy and chocolate, with Cadbury’s, Green & Black’s, Godiva, Dagoba, Endangered Species brand, Divine and others.

Fair trade confections will become a mainstream item, as coffee has become, and will be noticeable when it’s NOT there, rather than when it is. And that’s a sweet deal for sugar and cocoa producers in West Africa and the Caribbean, and for companies that have adopted a supportive approach to fair trade.

Zack Gross works for the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC), a coalition of over forty international development organizations active in our province.

« Twenty-six Fair Trade Wines Available in Manitoba

One-Month Challenge 2012 »

This program was made possible with financial support of the Government of Manitoba,
and was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC)

Government of ManitobaGlobal Affairs Canada