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Fairtrade chocolate proving recession proof in UK

By Jane Byrne , 03-Jun-2010

A hike in sales volumes of Fairtrade chocolate in the UK are expected following a retailer’s decision to extend its own brand range of the ethically sourced chocolate.

The Co-operative chain, which collaborates with Italian chocolate product contract manufacturer Icam, said that it expects annual sales of its Fairtrade chocolate range to jump from £5m to £10m as it rolls out the bars to the 800 Somerfeld stores it acquired last year along with the introduction of two new premium Fairtrade products.

The Co-operative was the first retailer to introduce own-brand chocolate with the Fairtrade mark ten years ago and Brad Hill, Fairtrade strategy development manager at the retail chain told ConfectioneryNews.com that the recession has not suppressed UK consumers’ appetite for ethically produced products, with a notable shift to the luxury end of this sector.

“Shoppers are focussed on sourcing quality products and are prepared to pay premium for these,” said Hill.

Indeed a survey conducted late last year by IGD, the organization found that 31 per cent of UK consumers said they intended to spend more on Fairtrade products in the future.

New cocoa source

Hill said that the Co-operative, in order to meet the enlarged volume of Fairtrade chocolate, is now switching the sourcing of its cocoa for its standard bar range from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana to the Conacado co-operative in the Dominican Republic.

He added that the growers at Kuapa Kokoo will supply the raw material for its premium Truly Irresistible range, with Hill noting the quality of West African cocoa beans was a predominant factor in this decision.

“With this new initiative, we are spreading the benefits of Fairtrade, along with the additional funding we deliver, to a wider range of producers,” he added.

Hill said that the retailer will also establish a new development fund for social projects to help the Conacado growers.

Hike in demand

Sales of Fairtrade certified products increased 15 per cent in 2009, according to the global Fairtrade body, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO).

FLO said that sales of Fairtrade-certified sugar and cocoa saw the biggest sales increases last year, as several major confectionery manufacturers made commitments to source fairly traded ingredients, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Nestlé’s Kit Kat, and Green & Black’s, as well as the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s.

Fairtrade cocoa sales were up 35 per cent in 2009, while Fairtrade sugar sales grew by 57 per cent.

CEO of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International Rob Cameron said: “As 2009 began in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years, we worried that Fairtrade producers could lose sales. Instead, consumers across the globe bucked the trend and proved their deep commitment to giving producers a fair deal. Fairtrade sales grew in all countries.”

Fairtrade sales grew ‘exponentially’ in Eastern Europe, South Africa, and many countries in the global south during 2009, FLO said, and shoppers in the most established Fairtrade markets also increased their spending on Fairtrade products.

“The largest Fairtrade markets had strong growth: 14 per cent in the UK and 7 per cent in the USA,” the organization said.

An estimated 1.2 million farmers and workers sell through the Fairtrade scheme, with benefits including higher-than-market income and funds for development projects.

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