13 February 2007, 20:54 PM
  • With the approach of Fairtrade Fortnight 2007 (February 26th – March 11th), a new trend continues to brew as more and more businesses and catering establishments are choosing fair trade hot drinks.

This year has started off with good news for coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru and Indonesia in the run up to Fairtrade Fortnight. Farming groups in these countries will benefit from the decision by café chain Pret A Manger to switch all the coffee it sells to Fairtrade certified.

Simon Hargraves, commercial director of Pret A Manger, explained his company’s decision, “To Pret, Fairtrade is the obvious and right thing to do. Pret has been offering fair trade coffee as its filter coffee since 2002 and has now decided to roll this out to cover all of the coffee we sell. Whilst our coffee has always been ethically sourced, official certification allows us to communicate this clearly to our customers.” The coffee is also certified organic and environmentally friendly.

Meanwhile, other developments echo a growing success for fair trade within the hot drinks sector. The conversion of all Marks & Spencer’s tea and coffee to fair trade last year has led to sales growth of six percent against a market growth of 1.5%, the company has revealed.

Smaller companies, too, have noticed a difference. Mike Steel, managing director of hot drinks company, Fairtrade Vending, has reported a doubling of turnover in the past twelve months. “There has been an increase in demand within the local authority sector and in companies generally,” he said.

And at the top end of the market, Harvey Nichols is stocking its first fair trade hot beverages – Taylors of Harrogate’s Fairtrade Colombian High Andes Coffee, Fairtrade Guatemalan Cloud Forests coffee and Fairtrade Breakfast Tea. Emilie Taylor, assistant grocery buyer at Harvey Nichols, said, “We are trying to introduce more fair trade products and The Harvey Nichols’ customers selection is led by quality and origin. We always endeavour to buy only the highest quality premium products from smaller plantations with sustainability programmes. Over the past few years market trends have shown a definite increase in our customers’ awareness and knowledge of these important issues.”

AMT Coffee, the first national coffee chain to switch to 100% coffee in all of its outlets is reporting increased awareness and support for fair trade among its customers. “Comments we get, via our Customer Comment Cards in answer to the question ‘Why do you buy at AMT?’ include, ‘It’s fair trade without even asking or paying more.’ And ‘Because it’s fair trade and it tastes great’,” said a representative. The chain has also switched its flapjacks, Eccles cakes and brownies to fair trade versions.

Latest statistics from the Fairtrade Foundation show that there are now 20 different types of fair trade tea available – including Earl Grey, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Green Tea, Lemon Ginger, Decaffeinated, and Vanilla Chai – from more than 40 different companies. There are five different types of coffee – instant, Decaffeinated, Roast & Ground, Espressos and Whole Coffee beans - from more than 70 different companies.

Martin Hill, head of commercial relations at the Fairtrade Foundation, said, “Businesses often tell us that their sales increase when they switch to fair trade, which is excellent news for the farmers in developing countries and speaks volumes about the choices that UK consumers are making. The range of products now available carrying the FairtradeE Mark helps us to help businesses to find precisely the products they need.”

The estimated retail value of sales of Fairtrade products in the UK in 2005 was £195m, a 40% increase on 2004. The Fairtrade Foundation expects sales of products with the Fairtrade Mark to at least maintain the growth recent years. A recent survey by Mintel said British shoppers will spend £2bn on Fairtrade, organic and locally sourced products during 2006, an increase of 62% since 2002. It also found Fairtrade to be the fastest growing of these sectors with a 265% growth since 2002. 

The guaranteed fair price which comes with fair trade means coffee farmers selling on fair trade terms do not have to face the huge dips in commodity prices which have left them struggling to maintain their farms. They have used the additional premium which comes with Fairtrade to improve the healthcare, education and other important benefits for themselves and their families and to improve and strength their businesses.