RICHMOND, Va. — TransFair USA has begun rolling out Fair Trade Certified flowers into U.S. florists and supermarkets, and shoppers appear to be accepting the program well.
“We've only had it since the beginning of October, and when we rolled it out, we sold about 1,300 units, which is pretty good for a new product introduction such as this,” said Mandy Burnette, spokeswoman for Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's Super Markets.
The Fair Trade Certified label guarantees that flower workers in developing countries — the majority of whom are women — receive fair wages, protective gear, training on safe handling of agrochemicals, education, child care, and paid vacation, maternity and sick leave. They also receive a premium of approximately 10% on each sale to invest in community and business development projects.
“It's very much about social consciousness for us,” Burnette told SN.
“We want to make sure that the farmers that are working on these farms are maintaining the quality of life that is acceptable, and anything we can do to raise awareness around this in our stores is wonderful.”
The Fair Trade Certified flowers will be available at retailers nationwide. While each retailer will set its own price for the flowers, they are expected to retail at a 10% price premium over similar flowers, according to the TransFair USA release. The price premium reflects the additional money paid to the growers by the retailer. To date, more than 30 of the highest-quality flower growers in Ecuador, Colombia and Africa are Fair Trade Certified, representing over 1 billion stems of production.
Currently, Ukrop's carries Fair Trade Certified 12-stem and 18-stem rose bunches, as well as a rose and daisy bunch, all of which are among the chain's top 10 fresh flower products, Burnette said.
The Fair Trade Certified label is a simple way for consumers to know that their products were produced under socially, environmentally and economically sustainable conditions. Seventy-three percent of U.S. consumers believe their purchases have a significant impact on society, and most are willing to pay a 10% premium for sustainable products, according to a recently released study by the Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash.
Burnette said that Ukrop's was currently highlighting the Fair Trade products with displays and signage in prominent locations within the chain's stores. The company is anticipating that the programs will grow through the holidays.
“We anticipate that with Christmas, we will probably sell quite a few. Our floral managers are so excited about the program and want it to do well,” she said.
Currently, Ukrop's is averaging about 300 Fair Trade bouquets a week and plans to do a big push on the program around February.
“I think it will certainly increase with Valentine's Day, especially when we put some push around it here internally,” Burnette said.
Ukrop's also participates in the VeriFlora program, a sustainable floral program where the label acts as a consumer guarantee of environmental protection, fair labor practices and product quality.
In an effort to raise awareness of fair trade practices, VeriFlora recently partnered with Portraits of Hope — a nonprofit program that develops public art, education and creative therapy projects that promote civic responsibility and visually transform public environments — for the Garden in Transit project.
As part of the 100-year anniversary celebration of New York City's metered taxis, more than 23,000 children and volunteers at hospitals and schools painted 80,000 flowers, which now adorn the city's iconic yellow cabs. Recently, thousands of volunteers and taxi drivers handed out “VeriFlora Certified Sustainably Grown” flowers to pedestrians and passengers with a message of community and cooperation: “Move this Flower Along!”
“I think [the move toward sustainable and fair trade floral] benefits all of us — not only TransFair, but the environment and community as a whole,” Annie Gardiner, executive director of VeriFlora, said.
“What sets VeriFlora apart is that it's a comprehensive sustainability standard and it brings together the different elements of sustainability for consumers.”
Consumer interest and awareness is there, which is a good sign and very important, Gardiner said.
“I do think this market is growing,” she said.
“I'm in a position to have lots of conversations with handlers, retailers and consumers, and I'm getting feedback that people are asking about this. They want to learn more about VeriFlora and sustainable flowers. Based on the conversation I had in New York City, it mattered to people that the flowers were sustainably grown. People are in different stages of understanding sustainability, but the point is that there was interest, that it was on people's radar and it mattered.”
At Ukrop's, consumers are very interested in learning more about fair trade flowers as well. A brochure about the program is attached to the bouquets, and in some cases, when the brochure has fallen out, shoppers come back and ask for it, Burnette said.
“It's very important to them that they understand why they're purchasing these flowers,” Burnette said.
“From a Ukrop's perspective, we give 10% of our profits back to the communities that we serve, and that's a pretty big number, especially as hard as it is to make a dollar in grocery. It's so important for us that the communities that we serve, that those community members have a positive quality of life, whether it's with our associates or just community members in general.
“In that same respect, it's so important that people that supply us with products maintain that quality of life as well, so by supporting programs like Fair Trade, we're able to do that.”