Fairtrade much more than just a good concept or fad

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th August 2009

Despite the tough economic conditions at home, new research from Britain shows shoppers are showing increasing concern over the welfare of people producing their food and groceries in developing countries.

The study from international food and grocery expert IGD discovered that more than half (52%) of shoppers feel that the pay and conditions of people producing their groceries in poorer countries is an important consideration, while an additional third (34%) would like these workers to enjoy good conditions even if they don’t normally think about it.

“Interest in social responsibility is still gaining momentum,” Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive of IGD, suggested. “The recession is prompting shoppers to seek out the best value but not by abandoning their values. Today’s technologies and instant news reports help to close the gap between consumers and producers around the world, heightening awareness and compassion.”

Over half (54%) want to know more about the pay and conditions of food producers in poorer countries and a further 19% would like more information to be made available for others to scrutinise. This has led to nearly three-fifths (59%) of British shoppers claiming to be active supporters of Fairtrade, buying products at least occasionally.

Fairtrade sales have soared around the world in the past couple of years, with global sales rising 22 per cent in 2008. Britain is the largest market with almost A$1.5 billion in sales last year, while Australian sales were up 80 per cent to $23 million. Figures in both countries are set to soar in the next couple of years with Cadbury committing to Fairtrade cocoa for their highest selling product – Dairy Milk.

“The resilience of the trend, even throughout a recession, sends out a strong message,” Ms Denney-Finch added. “Ethical sourcing is growing increasingly important for shoppers. That’s why it’s fast becoming a new competitive frontier for food retailers and brand owners.”

Nearly one in ten (9%) claim specifically to choose stores with a wide range of Fairtrade products, and always buy Fairtrade when possible.

The importance of Fairtrade

“In the current global economic climate, farmers need Fairtrade more than ever,” Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, advised. ” So it is reassuring that the IGD research shows consumers are still wholeheartedly backing a better deal for farmers and workers around the world, enabling them to survive this crisis and continue investing in stronger businesses and a better life for their communities.”

“In tough times, people go back to their core values, people care about other people and Fairtrade gives them the chance to put their values into everyday action whenever they go shopping.”

“This IGD research underlines that the public are giving companies permission to care. But credit is also due to these leaders – from dedicated companies like Cafédirect to major players such as Sainsbury’s who have taken the public permission and run with it,” Ms Lamb concluded.