Fair trade-certified products are growing at a record pace, thanks in large part to their expansion in supermarkets. Such products have come to include perishables like bananas and mangoes.
Overall, the category experienced record growth in 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to TransFair USA, the Oakland, Calif.-based certifier of fair trade products. Coffee, the foundation of the entire movement, grew 91% to 18.7 million pounds, from 9.8 million pounds in 2002. The roughly $100 million fair trade coffee market is also the fastest-growing sector of the coffee industry as a whole.
Fair trade products are now sold in 26,000 retail outlets, including major grocery chains like Kroger, Cincinnati; Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh; and Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass., among others.
"The mainstream shopper is beginning to get the idea that it really matters who grows the products and how they're doing it," said Haven Blourque, marketing director for TransFair USA.
While fair trade-certified coffee -- from companies like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Procter & Gamble's Millstone line -- as well as tea and cocoa are the most common items, some retailers began carrying fair trade bananas and mangoes in 2004, according to Blourque.
The future is especially bright for fair trade chocolate, and self-indulgence could be taken to a whole new level. A relative newcomer to the category, chocolate has received even silkier press lately as a health food of sorts. Studies published recently have shown dark chocolate, which is at least 70% cocoa, is a good source of polyphenols. Polyphenols -- antioxidants that are also found in red wine and green tea -- help keep plaque from adhering to artery walls. Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, which make blood less sticky and are believed to lower blood pressure. Now that's a fair trade.