Fairtrade imports surge as category expands

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fair trade, Food

Imports of fairtrade-certified products have reached record highs in the USA, with the market expanding to encompass new product categories on the back of increased consumer interest in ethically-produced food items, according to new data.

Released last week, the annual Almanac from third-party certifier TransFair USA identifies olive oil, quinoa and Brazil nuts as some of the new food product categories to enter the fairtrade market.

According to Paul Rice, TransFair USA president and CEO, the increased consumer demand in ethically-produced goods has contributed $45m in additional income to farming communities around the world. In total, the group has certified over 6,000 products on the US market, 259 of which were added last year.

This growth, achieved despite the tight economy in 2009, demonstrates a consumer commitment to ethical shopping even in recessionary times – a trend also highlighted in a market report published in October by Packaged Facts.

The market researcher acknowledged that price sensitivity was heightened during recessionary times, but identified that ethical consumption concerns had become such a priority with consumers that they were willing to pay more for products that matched their value systems.

Coffee and wine lead growth

TransFair USA’s 2009 Almanac reveals the largest growth in fair-trade products was attributed to coffee, the movement’s flagship product. The group said it had certified 100m pounds of fairtrade coffee last year. “This is an increase of 20 million pounds over 2008 figures and is more than was certified in TransFair USA’s first seven years combined,”​ it said.

Fairtrade wine also proved popular in 2009, with imports rising by 460 percent compared to 2008, which was the first year they had become available on the US market, according to the group.

Other products with increased imports included spices and vanilla, which saw a 240 percent growth in imports, and sugar, which rose by 20 percent. Fairtrade tea imports last year remained similar to 2008 levels, while fairtrade cocoa was the only category to dip in 2009, said TransFair USA.

Market size

The US market for ethical products has grown at around 10 percent per annum for the past five years, according to the Packaged Facts report, which tracks eco-friendly, green, natural, organic, humane and fairtrade items.

Last year, the market – for both food and non-food items in this category – was estimated to be worth $39bn. By 2014, sales are expected to reach $62bn.

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