British shoppers’ support for Fairtrade holds strong as organisation turns 30

British shoppers have continued to support Fairtrade despite the cost-of-living crisis, the organisation said as it turns 30 years old.

Fairtrade has been supporting farmers around the world with fairer prices since it launched the first certified products such as Green and Black’s chocolate and Clipper tea in 1994.

Marking its 30th anniversary on Wednesday, the certification body said UK consumers helped to generate approximately £28 million in premium payments last year – money that goes directly to farmers to use for business and community projects.

Colombian coffee production
Coffee farmer Jaime Garcia Florez tending to his crops at his farm in Siberia township, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia (Chris Terry/Fairtrade)

The annual results for 2023 showed that its UK cocoa sales volumes also grew by 6% and tea by 5% in 2023.

There was growth in smaller categories as well, with gold volumes rising by 25%, fresh vegetables by 15% and nuts and oil seeds by 12%.

Meanwhile, total incoming resources to the Fairtrade Foundation in 2023 increased by 11% to £13.4 million from £12.8 million in 2022.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said the results show that “UK shoppers do not trade down on their values when times are tough”.

He said: “2023 was a very challenging year for the UK economy, following the pandemic, global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of the climate crisis on supply chains.

“In this climate, Fairtrade sales volumes continued to hold up well thanks to the support of shoppers and businesses.”

It comes as research conducted by Kantar across 2023 found that 88% of people are aware of the Fairtrade Mark, 79% trust the Fairtrade Mark and 28% actively chose Fairtrade products “always” or “often”, despite the cost-of-living crisis.

Another Kantar survey conducted earlier this year found 77% of people agree that society now cares more about ethical issues than when Fairtrade began in 1994.

Colombian coffee production
Sacks of Fairtrade coffee beans ready for export at the Red Ecolsierra headquarters in Santa Marta, Colombia (Chris Terry/Fairtrade)

Mr Gidney said that despite the collective progress supported by Fairtrade over the years, the world “feels more insecure than it did in the 1990s”.

“We are seeing more frequently how shocks in one part of the world can cause empty shelves and food price inflation at home,” he said.

The charity has been warning that farming communities overseas are being hit hard by the double crisis of climate change and inflation, threatening the future of staple crops such as bananas, cocoa and coffee.

Fairtrade is now calling on the next UK government to deliver a trade strategy that helps to meet development and climate objectives and take forward laws that address deforestation and human rights violations in supply chains without adverse effects on farmers.

It is also urging businesses to increase Fairtrade sourcing commitments and to collaborate on innovative approaches to sourcing that promote sustainability.

Mr Gidney said: “We need to urgently focus in on credible collaborative solutions to the challenges farmers face.

“The more co-operation and power-sharing, the more supply chains can be strengthened. This is increasingly important as the UK becomes more food insecure.”