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Brand Week reports that ”fair trade” marketing has become the new “green marketing,” with more and more of these products finding room on the nation’s supermarket shelves. Fair trade is defined as when “farmers in such locations as Ghana or Costa Rica work in safe labor conditions, use environmentally friendly practices and are paid at least a minimum floor price for their crop. These family farmers may also belong to a co-op that democratically decides how to invest their profits in building schools, health clinics or developing better business and sustainability practices.”

The story says that “so far this year, 284 Fair Trade Certified products - typically coffee, tea, herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fruit, sugar, rice, spices and even cut flowers – were launched in the U.S. compared with 130 last year and 17 in 2003, according Mintel, Chicago.”

Retail sales of Fair Trade Certified coffee alone grew tenfold between 2001 and 2006 to $730 million, according to TransFair USA, which regulates the designation.

However, the always reliable Lynn Dornblaser of Mintel tells Brand Week that to this point, major manufacturers are not making a big deal out of the fair trade designation, and that it “is for small companies in big ways and big companies in small ways.”

KC's View:
At this point, with the US economy in turmoil, it probably is fair to say that a lot of people in the US may not be worried about fair labor and sustainability practices in Ghana or Costa Rica, and are more worried about making mortgage and tuition payments.

But this isn’t to suggest that people are going to completely abandon their interest in such things as social and economic justice. So I’d guess that the fair trade category will continue to grow, even if at a somewhat reduced rate, and that eventually there could be a broader commitment to it in the manufacturing and retailing sectors.