Talking Fair Trade: BevNET Interviews TransFair USA

Until recently, a Fair Trade designation has been something of a weak cousin to other socially conscious labels like Organic or All-Natural, but times are changing.

High-margin, high-visibility products like Guayaki Yerba Mate, Sambazon Acai, even Adina Coffees and Holistics, have all put their Fair Trade labels front and center as part of their core purpose as well as their marketing approach. The growth of Fair Trade-certified coffee in Starbucks coffee shops and in retailers like Whole Foods and Wal-Mart has fueled its growth. That weak cousin is flexing his muscles.

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to trade that incorporates the social and environmental needs of producers and workers into the prices companies pay for goods and services. On face, it’s a non-exploitive way of letting farmers and workers in less fortunate companies get access to better, more sustainable economic and environmental conditions, but it’s also become an important attraction for consumers, who are beginning to consider the echo effects of their purchases.

In the United States, Oakland, Calif.-based TransFair USA is the only  third-party certifier of Fair Trade products – it is also one of 20 members of Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO). BevNET spoke with Cate Baril, Trans-Fair’s director of business development for grocery and ingredients, about the growing presence of Fair Trade products in the beverage industry.