There has been a lot of movement in the UK market for Fairtrade products in the last few months, spearheaded by the retailer Co-op. But the latest development comes not from the supermarket group but from Cafédirect, the UK's leading producer of Fairtrade products.
Cafédirect is to launch what it claims is the UK's first ever 100 per cent Fairtrade drinking chocolate under the Cocodirect brand, with the first packs hitting the supermarket shelves next month.
Cocodirect contains Fairtrade cocoa and sugar, and is said to contain the highest cocoa content (40 per cent) of any drinking chocolate on the market. It is being positioned as a premium product, competing in the high growth luxury end of the drinking chocolate sector, which Cafédirect, citing IRI data, said was currently experiencing an 118 per cent increase in value.
The cocoa beans are bought from Conacado in Dominican Republic, a new co-operative producer partner to Cafédirect, and also Macefcoop in Cameroon, which already supplies Cafédirect with coffee beans. As Cocodirect grows, the company will buy from other existing coffee producer-partners to help them diversify their crops and source of income, Cafédirect said in a statement.
The Fairtrade sugar is currently being bought from Paraguay and plans are afoot to expand this purchase to help sugar producers in African countries, such as Malawi. As with all the Fairtrade products, Cafédirect pledges that it will pay farmers a fair price for the cocoa used in Cocodirect, and it is currently paying almost 13 per cent more than world market prices. This, it said, allows producers to cover their costs, develop their businesses and support their families and communities.
Cocodirect's high quality packaging reinforces the premium position of the product, which will be available in a 250g cardboard drum with a recommended retail price of £2.29.
Sylvie Barr, Cafédirect's head of marketing, said: "Drinking chocolate is a natural complement to our hot beverage range and our expertise with Cafédirect and Teadirect will enable us to replicate our successful formula with Cocodirect. With Cocodirect, you get the best of both worlds: you indulge in a luxurious drink whilst making a positive contribution to the lives of farmers around the world."
The company said that the product had been launched not only to help a wider number of producer-suppliers but also to meet increasing demand for ethical products. It cited a report from the Co-operative Bank in the UK which showed that total ethical food sales rose by 24 per cent last year to £1.59 billion - more than ten times the growth in the UK economy as a whole.
Fairtrade's share of these ethical food sales is now higher than ever, it said, with its UK sales up 40 per cent last year to £46 million.