Executive director Harriet Lamb says the strategy agreed by all the stakeholders is to try to bring Fairtrade into the mainstream and widen its product range, and it has some powerful backing for this, not least from the major multiples.
All the leading multiples are backing Fairtrade Fortnight (March 3-14), with the impetus for some coming right from the top. PoS highlighting Fairtrade products will be in all the stores and some will be going further, such as Sainsbury, which will be dedicating shelf plinths to Fairtrade products, and the Co-ops which will be reducing prices of all Fair Trade products by 20% during the fortnight.
Several, including Tesco and Sainsbury, will be organising events at head office to raise awareness about Fairtrade, and more than 1,000 stores are expected to host tastings under the banner Trust Your Taste to promote the products to new customers.
Liz Fullelove, Sainsbury manager for socially responsible sourcing, comments: “We have worked with the Fairtrade Foundation for 10 years and it fits well into our overall corporate strategy on social responsibility. There is also strong demand from customers and sales of Fairtrade products were up 70% during last year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, compared with the previous year.”
Some Fairtrade products are more expensive than the standard lines in their category, but Fullelove says this is because they are premium quality products with premium prices, hence the Trust your Taste theme for the fortnight.
Several of the multiples have also launched own brand Fairtrade products, including the Co-ops’ introduction of Fair Trade block chocolate last November.
Terry Hudghton, head of Co-op brand, says: “It has been an an excellent 12 months for the Co-op, which has made huge inroads into making Fairtrade mainstream by adding more products to our own brand range.”
At present there are just over 100 Fairtrade products overall in a handful of categories, some with sales growth the envy of other manufacturers in their field, says Lamb, but she sees scope for a far greater range of products. “In the early years we were laying solid foundations. We had to prove it would work. Now the case is proven - it has been a success commercially and it has transformed farmers’ lives,” she says.
Pressure to introduce more products is coming both from the farmers and from the retailers. Fullelove says there is demand both from customers and internally at Sainsbury for new products. The Foundation has responded by appointing a commercial relations manager, John Arnold, tasked with NPD and speeding up introductions.
One of his priorities is to ensure there is a market for any new launches, and he has held meetings with buyers from a number of multiples to find out about their requirements. More than a dozen products are in the pipeline including wine from South Africa and Chile, fresh fruit (in addition to the bananas available in every major multiple), and rice.
With the concentration on the taste and source of Fairtrade products, regular auditing which checks the way the businesses are run and product quality is key, and Lamb believes it matches the requirements of today’s more demanding and sophisticated consumers.
“Today people want to know about where their food comes from, who produced it, and that they were paid a fair price for it,” she says. “We have had traceability from day one. We can say who produced it, we can guarantee the quality, and we can guarantee that the farmer got a fair price.”