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Strong Sales Perk Up Growth Forecast for Fair Trade Goods

You don't have to wake up and smell the coffee to know that something's brewing in grocery store aisles across the country, according to new sales data. Although java is the flagship Fair Trade category, sales of all Fair Trade-certified products spiked by 24 percent last year, signaling the growing commitment of  consumers to products supporters say improve lives and protect the environment.

It’s not just the retail giants like Walmart and Dunkin’ Donuts that that dominate this $1.2 billion market. Of the 728 registered partners of with Fair Trade USA, a third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S., more than 700 are small businesses , according to Stacy Geagan Wagner, the group’s director of communications.

Their ranks include companies such as Alter Eco, Kopali Organics, Maggie’s Organics, Choice Tea, Numi Tea, Angell Bars and Alterra Coffee.

“There are two extremes,” Wagner told BusinessNewsDaily. “There are the Ben & Jerry’s and the Dunkin’ Donuts and then there are the small and medium-size companies.”

Fair Trade goods should not be confused with health foods and are not necessarily certified organics. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions,  protect the environment and receive development funds for their communities.

This past year, growth in mainstream channels such as supermarkets grew faster (26 percent) than those in Fair Trade’s traditional outlets: specialty grocers (22 percent) and natural grocers (16 percent, according to sales data.

But Fair Trade is still a minority player in this country, accounting for only 4 percent of the U.S. market.

“It’s still such a small percentage of the market that there’s room for everyone to grow,” Wagner said.

Coffee, long the poster child for Fair Trade goods, grew 33 percent due to the increased variety of Fair Trade coffees available through a broader assortment of retail supermarkets, the group said, while ready-to-drink tea and coffee were up 39 percent.

Sweeteners were up 17 percent, frozen desserts increased 4 percent and chocolate rose 19 percent.

The category is also expanding outside edibles: Fair Trade aromatherapy and body oils body care increased 19 percent and skin care/body care grew 33 percent.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.