Record sales for Cafédirect reflect growing Fairtrade market

Related tags Fairtrade Fair trade

Cafédirect, the UK's largest supplier of ethical tea and coffee
under the Fairtrade mark, has reported record sales for the year to
end March - a performance which confirms the growing importance of
ethical food and drink products 10 years after the launch of the
Fairtrade label.

Cafédirect said this week that a record month of trading during March - the first two weeks of which were designated Fairtrade Fortnight in the UK - had helped it lift combined sales of tea, coffee and chocolate to more than £20 million for the first time, clear evidence that ethical trading can also be big business.

In fact, Cafédirect's share of the UK market for roast and ground coffee reached 10.5 per cent in March, its highest ever ranking and second only to Douwe Egberts' 13 per cent. Its share of the instant coffee market is a more modest 4.5 per cent, but the company said that sales in March had grown by 28 per cent, compared to the market average of 2.7 per cent.

Nor is coffee the only source of growth - the company said that its Teadirect brand saw a 32 per cent increase in sales during March, compared an overall market decline of 1.6 per cent over the last 12 months.

Sylvie Barr, head of marketing at Cafédirect, said that the aim now was to build on the clear momentum in the general food retail sector and move into other areas of the industry. "Our results prove that more and more people are opting for ethical products like Cafédirect when they're shopping at the supermarket. This in turn will drive more demand in the catering market and will enable us to build on some key listings achieved in the past year, notably in the education sector."

But this momentum has not been created from nothing - there is a sophisticated and targeted marketing machine behind the Cafédirect brand, which must compete alongside all the other tea, coffee and chocolate products on UK supermarket shelves.

"Students empathise a lot with Fairtrade and a tailor made promotion organised for universities during last Fairtrade Fortnight was a resounding success,"​ said Barr.

Cafédirect is, of course, only one of a number of companies selling Fairtrade and other ethical products in the UK market, and it is likely to see increasing competition for shelf space in this market over the next few years. Just last week, a report from market analysts Mintel​ showed that the market for Fairtrade goods alone doubled between 2000 and 2003, with increases of 121 per cent for coffee, 86 per cent for tea, 188 per cent for chocolate and 206 per cent for bananas, according to the UK Fairtrade Foundation.

The Foundation, which manages the Fairtrade system in the UK, said that sales are currently running at a rate of around £100 million a year, with shoppers spending around £2 million a week on Fairtrade products in 2003, compared to the £2.7 million spent in the whole of 1994.

There are now more than 250 Fairtrade products from over 100 companies available in UK stores, while more than 300 catering suppliers nationwide offer Fairtrade products. Ten years ago, when the Fairtrade mark was launched, there were just three companies offering products - Clipper Fairtrade tea, Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate and Cafédirect coffee.

The out-of-home sector is now becoming increasingly important for the Fairtrade Foundation - indeed, a number of events organised during Fairtrade Fortnight focused on this specific area. Government departments, the Salvation Army, the Youth Hostel Association and the British Medical Association are among the organisations pledged to increase ethical purchases over the coming years. The efforts of the Foundation, companies such as Cafédirect and the major retail chains to promote Fairtrade and other ethical products have bveen highly successful in raising public awareness of the issue. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, one in four people in the UK recognise the Fairtrade Mark, which is being extended to a host of new products such as grapes, lemons, oranges, jams, marmalades, chutneys, a number of biscuit and cake products and even roses, the first non-food Fairtrade product.

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