CO-OP stores will lead the UK's Fairtrade revolution by dramatically increasing the number of own-brand Fairtrade products on sale.
The Co-operative Group this week announced the launch of nine new Fairtrade Co-op brand lines to coincide with the start of Fairtrade Fortnight and is pledging to double the size of own-brand range of Fairtrade products by the end of this year – the 10th anniversary of the Fairtrade Mark.
At the same time, the Movement is reinforcing its position as the UK's leading supermarket supporter of Fairtrade by giving its biggest-ever backing to Fairtrade Fortnight , which runs until March 14th.
Co-op stores currently sell more Fairtrade products than any other retailer and the CRTG-supplied range comprises 62 products, including the nine new lines.
They will be joined by a further 22 Co-op products by 2005, bringing total Fairtrade sales up to £ 21 million and returning £ 1.25 million each year in Fairtrade premium to growers in developing countries.
Co-op sugar, Easter eggs, plums, pears and organic oranges are among the first of the new Fairtrade products launched this week.
The introduction of the UK's first Fairtrade sugar signals a breakthrough for 300 African sugar cane growers who, like thousands of growers in developing countries around the world, are victims of the complex and restrictive sugar regime of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the high tariffs that are normally applied under the EU system.
Co-op buyers will also be challenging global markets even further by sourcing Fairtrade ingredients for composite products, such as the sugar and chocolate chips in the Co-op Fair Trade Choc Chip Shortbread – also launched this week – and in processed products, such as canned fruits, where the growers are often forgotten.
John Bowes, Chief General Manager, Marketing,, Co-op Group, said: "This is part of our commitment to making Fairtrade mainstream with the goal of ensuring that all Co-op products from developing countries will be fairly traded.
"This isn't just about importing Fairtrade commodities, it's about looking for new ways of using Fairtrade ingredients in standard supermarket lines."
During Fairtrade Fortnight, Co-op stores around the country will be reducing own-label and branded Fairtrade products by 20 per cent to encourage shoppers to switch to Fairtrade.
Co-op activists and staff will also be involved in handing out Fairtrade food samples to travellers at 12 mainline railway stations across Britain from Aberdeen to Brighton and including five in London.
Other activities include hundreds of in-store tastings and demonstrations plus a major TV and press advertising campaign.
Said Mr Bowes: "We're mounting our biggest promotion for Fairtrade Fortnight on the back of increasing customer demand and expectations.
"Fairtrade has already proved very popular with our customers, who know that by buying it they are helping growers and producers in developing countries.
"By allowing tens of thousands of train travellers to sample Fairtrade goods for free, we're sure even more people will realise that Fairtrade food and drink tastes great as well."
Mr Bowes revealed that, following the switch of its entire ranges of block chocolate and coffee to Fairtrade, sales of Co-op block chocolate have increased by 25 per cent and Co-op coffee sales are already up by 12 per cent since November.
? See also pages 8, 9, 10 and 16.