Co-op becomes first UK retailer to source 100% Fairtrade cocoa

Co-op has become the first UK retailer to only sell and use 100% Fairtrade cocoa in its products, and has called on other retailers to increase their commitments to the Fairtrade initiative.

The retailer announced on Saturday (25 February) that it had worked with the Fairtrade Foundation to create a new sourcing model for the past year, which will ensure that more than 200 Co-op products will switch to 100% Fairtrade cocoa by May 2017.

Co-op sold the UK’s first Fairtrade-labelled chocolate bar product in 1994, before switching its own brand of chocolate bars over to the Fairtrade range in 2002. These own-brand chocolate ranges, which range from bars to gift boxes and seasonal products, will all carry the Fairtrade Mark.

“The UK is the world’s biggest Fairtrade market and the world’s fourth biggest consumer of chocolate, but our manufacturers and retailers still only source a tiny amount on Fairtrade terms,” Co-op’s Fairtrade strategy manager Brad Hill said.

“When we consider that demand for cocoa is set to rise by 30% over the next three years alone, it’s imperative that we keep moving forward with sustainability initiatives in order to shape this industry. We must help to improve the lives of farming communities who are still suffering a raw deal.”

The switch will see Co-op generate £450,000 annually in Fairtrade premium for cocoa communities, and is estimated to be worth £7.1m to the industry. The amount of Fairtrade cocoa sourced by Co-op will increase five-fold to 2,848 tonnes.

Call to action

Cocoa prices have tumbled to their lowest level for more than three years, and are closing in on the Fairtrade minimum price of $2000 per tonne, which the Foundation established at a safety mechanism for its farmers.

While cocoa sales look bleak, overall sales of Fairtrade products have increased for the first time since 2013, with the sales of bananas and coffee outweighing the decline in Fairtrade cocoa and sugar. In total, revenues generated from Fairtrade products increased by 2% to £1.64bn in the UK last year.

The UK is the world’s third-biggest consumer of chocolate per capita, however, Fairtrade has only acquired a 9.8% market share. To stimulate growth, Co-op and the Foundation have called on other UK retailers to enhance commitments to Fairtrade cocoa farmers.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s chief executive Michael Gidney said: “Chocolate is often seen as an indulgence in the West, but for the millions of small-scale farmers who grow cocoa it can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity. We are very pleased to build on our longstanding partnership with the Co-op. As a leading retailer with strong ethical values, the Co-Op’s commitment to Fairtrade is exemplary. 

“After 20 years, the Co-op remains one of Fairtrade’s most important allies in helping farmers get a better deal and this move again sets the standard for other retailers to follow.”

Prior to Co-op’s call to action, Tesco revealed that it will acquire all cocoa used for its own label chocolate, biscuits, cakes, deserts and cereal products sold in the UK from Rainforest Alliance Certified sources by the end of 2018.

In 2015, Mars Bars containing Fairtrade-certified cocoa went on sale in the UK and Ireland for the first time. The rollout followed the announcement that Mars UK became the first UK company to commit to Fairtrade’s new Cocoa Sourcing Programme. Co-op has since adapted this programme to create a “retail ready” version.

The retail version is said to account for supply and logistics complexity, covering a range of manufacturing sites, supplier facilities and product ranges, all of which require differing amounts of cocoa.

Matt Mace

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