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Out of Our Minds
Friday, May 05, 2006 12:39 PM
Coming up next: Fair-trade bananas
Curt Rosengren on Environment & Sustainability

The fair-trade label is poised to become the next "organic" label in the minds of consumers, according to this article - maybe a little more expensive, but something they want.

The fair-trade label is currently found on chocolate, coffee, and tea in the United States , and is scheduled to appear on bananas by the end of the year. The label assures shoppers the item was originally purchased at an above-average price. That extra money is intended to enable farmers to feed their families and send their children to school rather than to the fields.

In the US, it's still a minute percentage of the market, but growing.

"Fair-trade goods represent 0.01 percent of the total food and beverage industry, which makes them look really minuscule and irrelevant," says Gwynne Rogers, a strategic-marketing analyst at the Natural Marketing Institute. "But a 50 percent growth rate at the $131 million level is outstanding and uncommon.... If fair trade can successfully move its brand to other categories besides coffee, as it should, then it will have the growth potential to become significant in the food and beverage industry."

The US market has a way to go before it catches up with its European counterparts though.

Despite its growth, the American fair-trade industry lags far behind Europe 's. One in 5 bananas sold in Switzerland is fair trade, as is 14 percent of all ground coffee sold in England . The list of fair-trade labeled products in Europe includes rice, mangoes, sugar, fruit juices, and even soccer balls. Europeans have been made aware of such products thanks to government-sponsored education campaigns - something not found in the US .

"As of January 2003, only 6 percent of US consumers had heard of fair-trade coffee, and 2 percent had actually bought it," says Jay Molishever, a spokesman for the National Coffee Association. "Fair-trade coffee is a valid approach, but it is not the entire solution because the volume sold as a percent of the market is extremely low."

How important would the fair-trade label be to you? Would you pay a premium for products labeled fair-trade?

1 comment

Janet Auty-Carlisle - 5/5/2006 7:39:51 PM
Curt, it may not have been intentional on your part, but, the idea of fair trade bananas is not new...and it is important. Bananas that are not GMO'd are almost extinct...seriously....The reason is because they are so expensive to grow organically that most farmers go the cheap route to get any cash they can. It is important that the same ways that coffee was protected are ways that should be offered to banana farmers....Again, I know I go on about this but we do only have one Earth to call ours, I do go out of my way to buy fair trade..and I research it and I work really hard to ensure the labels are true and the company is holding true to their values. I have children, they will have children and so on....What right do I have to say to any of them "Hey, I'm more important than you are and now that my generation knows how, and why, to make the changes, and chooses not to, is not my problem. Deal with it..." That is just too ego driven for my values...Fair trade it is, the more the better...financially a bigger price to pay, long term...a much bigger price to pay if we don't go organic/fair trade...Living la vida fearless, Jan


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