One of the UK's largest importers of Fairtrade produce, AgroFair, is launching a range of smoothies later this year in its first move to create a branded offer.
It claims the Oké brand will be the first Fairtrade not-from-concentrate smoothie in the UK.
Until now, the only Fairtrade smoothies have been Co-op own-label and the Natural Beverage Company's Fruit Hit, but both were from concentrate, said AgroFair MD John Bowes.
The idea for the product came after the organisation met with its producer-owners at its shareholder meeting in Ecuador last year. "We were struck by the amount of fruit disposed of because it was too large, small, curved, straight or ugly," said Bowes. "It seemed a tragic waste ."
AgroFair initially tried to sell the idea of Fairtrade 'ugly' fruit to UK supermarkets, but "no one wanted to know", said Bowes. "So we came up with the idea of puréeing it for smoothies ."
AgroFair believes the 7% of consumers who take ethical issues 'very seriously' could translate into a market worth about £9m within the £130m smoothie category. "We'd love to get 4% to 5% of the market after 12 months, which is one hell of a challenge for us. But supermarkets are responding well to our proposition."
The two lines - raspberry, blackberry & banana, and mango, orange & pink guava - are set for a UK launch in September with discussions under way with all the major retailers. The marketing programme is being finalised but it will directly target a database of 2,000 of the UK's most ethical consumers, along with 10,000 opinion leaders and 70,000 students.
A website is also launching later this month, with a regular blog from Bowes, as well as farmers, to generate debate and steer the future of the brand.
There are plans for a major sampling event in London in September.
Priced at £3.25 for a one-litre carton, Oké will be at a premium to others in the aisle. But Bowes said its policy of paying Fairtrade growers slightly more than the going rate meant margins were tighter. The Fairtrade proposition and the packaging would create standout on shelf, said Bowes .