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Take a step for Fairtrade

Today is the start of Fairtrade fortnight, marking the 20th anniversary of the launch of Fairtrade in the UK.

The theme for 2012’s Fairtrade Fortnight is ‘Take a Step for Fairtrade’, highlighting the importance for all businesses to meet sustainability challenges. The Fairtrade sector has shown growth amid a period of retail decline, singling it out as an ethically aware and attractive solution to UK consumer needs.

Defying the decline

Fairtrade products have outperformed overall retail decline with double digit growth last year. UK consumers have helped Fairtrade products reach a value of £1.32bn in 2011, up from £1.17bn in 2010.

The UK is the largest market for Fairtrade products, even though they only account for 0.1% of sales worldwide.

Fairtrade’s 12% increase in sales can be broken down further. Cocoa and sugar exhibited the largest growth, with bananas, coffee and tea showing a steadier increase.

Most importantly, the Fairtrade premiums received by producers in developing countries increased by 10% in 2011. This ethical element is making the difference for Fairtrade products, as UK consumers increasingly choose to buy them over conventional alternatives.

Big retail names

From Fairtrade products being few and far between, they are now drawing interest from some of the biggest names in retail.

Fairtrade pioneer The Co-op has already committed all its own brand tea, coffee and sugar to Fairtrade producers. This week it has announced all of its bananas will be the same.

Supermarkets including Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have all committed to making their own brand sugar Fairtrade. This will make the UK sugar market 42% Fairtrade, with sugar being the single biggest Fairtrade product.

Fairtrade chocolate was pioneered by names such as Divine and Green and Black’s. Cadburys has already committed to Fairtrade, and with Mars launching its Fairtrade initiative this spring it has become part of the mainstream. All Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will also convert to Fairtrade this year.

With business giants such as Unilever on board with Fairtrade, this is one retail trend that seems to be defying any threat of recession.

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