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Tate & Lyle makes massive fairtrade sugar switch

By Lorraine Heller , 25-Feb-2008

Tate & Lyle is to convert its entire retail sugar range to fairtrade in the largest fair-trade switch ever made by a UK company.

The firm told ConfectioneryNews.com that it is too early to say if its move to the ethical trading scheme will spread to its ingredient division. "For now we are completely focused on retail," said a spokesperson. The company said it is still at the "beginning of [its fair trade] journey", with the first move involving the conversion of its Granulated White Cane Sugar line to the scheme. By the end of next year, it said it hopes to have converted all its retail cane sugar range to fairtrade. What consumers want According to leading UK supermarket chain Waitrose, the move by Tate & Lyle slots in well with consumer demand. "Our customers are demonstrating a real desire to buy ethically sourced products like Tate & Lyle's Fairtrade sugar as they want the assurance that growers and their communities in the developing world are getting a fair deal," said Waitrose Sugar Buyer Chris Moore. Ethical trading schemes such as Fairtrade have grown from a niche to mainstream in recent years as consumers become increasingly 'tuned-in' to the global implications of their purchasing choices. According to analysts Mintel, the total fairtrade market was worth about £230m by the end of 2006, experiencing some 265 per cent growth between 2002 and 2006. Preparation for the switch Tate & Lyle said it has been planning the switch to fairtrade for two years. It has worked in partnership with the UK-based Fairtrade Foundation to help cane farmers in Belize - where the firm sources all its white cane sugar - to meet fair-trade standards. "The Fairtrade Foundation applauds the vision and commitment of Tate & Lyle, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers' Association and its partner Belize Sugar Industries, who have been working hard with the Fairtrade Foundation and its international network for over two years to plan the move and achieve the certification for the farmers," said the Fairtrade Foundation. "This move comes at a critical time for the farmers and the whole Belizean sugar industry, which faces challenges from changes to the EU Sugar Regime, and from Hurricane Dean, which devastated farms in the region in 2007." Fairtrade fortnight Tate & Lyle's announcement comes at the start of a two-week annual campaign to promote fairtrade. Fairtrade Fortnight, which kicked off yesterday, is organised by the Fairtrade Foundation and backed by organisations, charities and businesses that support or sell fairtrade products. The fortnight will include a series of talks by fairtrade producers from countries around the world, and will allow attendees to meet the farmers behind the products. Amongst attendees will be representatives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers' Association and the Belize Sugar Industries. For the first phase of its fiartrade sugar programme, Tate & Lyle will source 70,000 tonnes of certified sugar from Belize. This increases tenfold the total volumes of Fairtrade sugar sold in the UK in 2007. Tate & Lyle's fairtrade sugar will be sold initially at Waitrose and Nisa stores in 1kg bags, and will soon also become available in other outlets.

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