The Fairtrade Foundation charity said that shoppers and businesses are choosing Fairtrade for most groceries, but not sugar.
Fairtrade Foundation’s chief executive Michael Gidney said: “These figures show that British shoppers remain committed to Fairtrade, despite the turbulence in the grocery market.”
The nation’s love affair for Fairtrade coffee showed no signs of abating, with an estimated 255 million more cups drunk in 2015 compared to 2014, and the UK brewed an additional 184 million cups of Fairtrade tea in 2015, compared to 2014.
However, not all Fairtrade products fared as well in 2015. In particular, changes in EU market regulations on sugar were leading to a collapse in sales of cane sugar, said the Foundation, as it had predicted in its 2015 report Sugar Crash.
Sugar sales dropped
Volumes of Fairtrade sugar declined by 36% in 2015, compared to 2014, meaning real challenges for the many thousands of small-scale cane growers dependent on cane exports to the EU for their livelihood.
The decline in the price of sugar in Europe has led to a shift away from cane towards domestic, subsidised beet sugar. Meanwhile, sales of Fairtrade fresh and dried fruit and nuts also declined in 2015.
The Fairtrade Foundation’s initial estimates of the overall retail value of the UK Fairtrade market show a slight decline to around £1.6 billion in 2015, compared to £1.7m in 2014.
Gidney said: “Sales in many commodities remain strong for Fairtrade, yet the irony of the EU flooding the market in cheap sugar at a time of increased concern over obesity is surely lost on no-one, with the added risk of pushing 200,000 farmers in developing countries back into poverty”
For 2016, the Fairtrade Foundation remained cautiously optimistic, with recent announcements by a range of businesses to extend their commitments to buying on Fairtrade terms. These include The Co-operative’s commitment to stocking Tate & Lyle’s Fairtrade sugars in addition to its own-label Fairtrade sugar – it is the first supermarket to make its entire sugar range Fairtrade.