Sales of fairly traded products have bucked the trend of decline in the UK retail market to grow by 12% in the last year. The value of Fairtrade products sold through shops reached £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to figures from the Fairtrade Foundation, as it launches its annual marketing fortnight on Monday.
Unlike other premium sectors such as the organic market, which have lost ground as consumers struggle with the combination of rising food and energy prices and stagnant incomes, the Fairtrade market has continued to expand.
The growth largely reflects a move among major supermarkets to sell Fairtrade goods at the same price as conventionally produced equivalents. Alternatively they have switched whole ranges to the Fairtrade sector rather than pass on the premium paid to farmers as a higher cost to consumers. All the Co-operative’s own-brand tea, coffee and sugar are now Fairtrade. The company will announce this week that it is to make all its bananas Fairtrade, in line with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, who have already converted their whole banana category to Fairtrade.
The Fairtrade cocoa and sugar sectors have seen the most significant growth in the past year, with 34% and 21% increases over 2010 respectively. Morrisons will announce this week that it will join other major retailers, including the Co-op, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, who have committed to converting all their bagged sugar stocks to Fairtrade sugar from Tate & Lyle. This move will bring Fairtrade’s share of the UK retail bagged sugar market to 42%, and will make sugar the biggest single Fairtrade product.
The UK is the largest market for fairly traded products, helped by support from the trade unions, faith groups and the Fairtrade Towns campaign. The sector as a whole remains very small, however.