So you’ve undertaken a green audit, embarked on an energy efficiency plan and explored eco-friendly packaging. How else can you make your business more ethical? Consider looking more closely at the core of your business - at the products you sell.
How can you be sure that the coffee in your signature blend or the nuts in your top-selling traybake are sourced from companies that give workers a fair deal? Selling Fairtrade-certified products will give you and your customers that reassurance. Whether you are making your own products from raw ingredients, or sourcing them ready-made from a supplier, there’s a way to fit Fairtrade into your sales mix.
A recent report found that people want to see more Fairtrade available in cafés, restaurants and pubs (34%), in local shops (32%) and while on the move (25%). So stocking Fairtrade could help you to attract new customers - particularly if you publicise the move well.
Fifteen food categories now have Fairtrade standards, from basics such as chocolate, cocoa, sugar and dried fruit through to finished goods, such as biscuits, cakes and cereal bars, as well as tea, coffee and hot drinks. So there’s bound to be one relevant to your business.
The Fairtrade Foundation (FF) says Fairtrade is "about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world". Fairtrade farmers get paid a stable amount, regardless of the going market price. "Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives," says the FF.
== International standards ==
For a product to display the Fairtrade mark, it must meet international standards set by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International. The report by the FF (source: TNS CAPI OmniBus May 2008) shows more consumers than ever recognise the Fairtrade mark. Recognition is now at 70% - a leap of 13% from the year before. One in four consumers now regularly buy products carrying the Fairtrade mark, the report says, while 64% of the population link the mark to a better deal for producers in the developing world.
The wave of pro-Fairtrade consumer opinion is increasingly influencing the buying patterns of manufacturers, bakery retailers and cafés.
Cheshire bakery Chatwins has just made the switch to Fairtrade coffee and tea in all of its 45 shops and coffee lounges. Chairman Edward Chatwin says the company had noticed a growing number of customers asking for Fairtrade. "Not a vast amount - but the customers that were asking for it were quite vocal and passionate about it," he says.
The final push was a decision by the authorities in Alsager, Cheshire, where Chatwins has a branch, to adopt a Fairtrade policy across the whole town. Once the decision was made, however, Chatwins took its time to find the right supplier - eventually opting for Liverpool-based MCS Coffee.
Price has also played a part. "The difference between Fairtrade and normal coffee prices is smaller than it was," Chatwin adds.
Both Greggs and Eat have worked with the FF to develop their own branded POS and packaging featuring the FF’s logo. The FF’s business development manager Samantha Dormer suggests that bakery retailers and cafés highlight the Fairtrade goods they sell by including information on table menus and menu boards. "Putting up storyboards with information about the producers is also a good way of linking the consumers with the producers," she says.
== Making a start ==
If you’re thinking of dipping your toe in the water of Fairtrade, it’s a good idea to start with tea and coffee. In this way, you can up your ethical status with consumers, without taking the risk of a full switchover. You will also be able to monitor consumer demand and response, which will help you decide whether there’s a hunger for more Fairtrade lines.
So what should you consider? Leon Mills, marketing manager of Tchibo Coffee Service, says bakery retailers and café owners must ensure that the quality of their Fairtrade coffee is at least as good as their current brand. "The taste of the coffee must be what customers want. If it isn’t, then you will lose customers. Our Vista brand is a good choice - not just because it’s a Fairtrade brand, but it also has chocolatey, nutty aromas."
There has been increased demand from the education sector and from younger people, Mills says, adding, "There’s also been a drive from the in-home market - supermarkets are selling Fairtrade products and that has driven consumer awareness".
== Out of Africa ==
Another supplier pursuing Fairtrade is Percol, part of Food Brands Group, which has been producing Fairtrade coffee for almost 20 years, and has just boosted its trade offering with the launch of an African range of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. So far, only the teabags are available to trade (through Amia Foods), but Percol also offers an extensive selection of Fairtrade coffee beans from other continents plus instant coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Percol founder, Brian Chapman, says he has had a long-term dream to create a range from Africa "and, at the same time, help some of the more disadvantaged there". He adds: "We’ve created an extremely exciting initiative - we have married the best ingredients we could find with a genuine project that is going to impact people’s daily lives."
Staying with coffee, ingredients supplier S Black has added triple-certification - organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance-approved - coffee extracts to its portfolio. The fully-soluble extracts are suitable for bakery, chocolates, desserts, drinks and dairy.
S Black’s technical sales manager Richard Bacon says he expects organic and Fairtrade products to continue growing in the UK market. "Using S Black’s coffee extracts can help food manufacturers be seen as offering something more premium and indulgent, as well as more ethical and green," he adds.
Moving on to sugar, Tate & Lyle has announced its intention to gain Fairtrade accreditation for its cane sugar products. Or why not consider Fairtrade cola (www.ubutu-trading.com), cereal bars (www.dovesfarm.co.uk) or ready-made cakes (www.handmadecakecompany.co.uk). That’s just a snapshot of what’s available in the market; for a full list of Fairtrade suppliers see [http://www.fairtrade.org.uk].
There’s no excuse not to get cracking - the evidence suggests that if you don’t start to offer Fairtrade options, it’s only a matter of time before your customers vote with their wallets and go somewhere that does.
=== Summit explores stance on CSR ===
Fairtrade Foundation director Harriet Lamb will be one of the top speakers at British Baker’s Baking Industry Summit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on 27 November. The conference will examine how to start building a CSR strategy and what government, consumers and the supermarkets are asking for. It will seek to supply some answers as to how easily you can build CSR into a sustainable business strategy - and examine the business benefits that this can bring. Speakers will include packaging and waste experts who have tackled specific bakery-based issues head-on and are ready to share their experiences. See [http://www.bakingsummit.co.uk] for further details. To book, contact Helen Law at email@example.com or phone 01293 846587.