When Heinen’s Fine Foods started roasting Equal Exchange coffee recently, it joined a growing number of retailers deepening their commitment to Fair Trade.
While 250 other food stores brew Equal Exchange coffee, Heinen’s is the first to roast it in store. Ten stores that have Java Masters retail roasting machines provide the service.
The fresh roasted coffee positions the Warrensville Heights, Ohio, retailer as socially aware and locally minded, said Rodney North, spokesman for Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater, Mass., an organization committed to Fair Trade.
“You can’t get more local than in-store roasting unless you roast it in your own kitchen,” said North.
The brews are available in seven regular and one decaf flavor, including breakfast, French Roast, Mexican and Guatemalan. All are organic and sell for $9.99 a pound.
Equal Exchange ships about 100 pounds of green coffee beans from its Massachusetts plant to Heinen’s each week. The size of shipments is expected to grow as the program develops, such as guaranteed minimum prices for farmers and better working conditions.
Heinen’s samples the coffee and educates shoppers about Fair Trade, a trading partnership that helps ensure that farmers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities.
Heinen’s is one of Equal Exchange’s best customers, said North. The retailer carries nearly all of its products, including hot chocolate, tea, chocolate and granola bars.
Heinen’s co-president Jeff Heinen even traveled with the company to visit coffee farms in El Salvador. He is also on the Equal Exchange board.
“Heinen’s has been particularly supportive of what we do,” said North.
Heinen’s in-store roasting comes at a time when other retailers are expanding their Fair Trade assortment and promotions.
Fairway Market, New York, for instance, recently introduced store brand, single-serve coffee pods. They sell for $6.99 on special for a 12-pod box.
Compatible with Keurig coffee machines, the 100% Arabica, kosher-certified coffees are available in six flavors: Organic Original Blend, Organic Decaf Blend, Organic Dark Roast, Supreme Blend, Italian Roast and Hazelnut.
Each flavor is sourced by Fair Trade, “so you can feel good knowing you’re contributing to the future of the global coffee industry,” according to the Fairway blog.
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To celebrate Earth Month last year, Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, gave away two trips for two to the Earth University, a nonprofit institution in Costa Rica that grows bananas for Whole Foods.
Earth University bananas are backed by Whole Foods’ Whole Trade program, designed to provide fair prices to producers, better wages and working conditions for farm workers, and environmentally friendly growing practices.
Retailers are actively seeking a wider variety of Fair Trade products beyond just coffee and chocolate, according to North. For example, some are stocking Equal Exchange’s new line of dried fruits and nuts and olive oil.
Until recently the only Fair Trade produce items available were bananas, but proactive retailers are seeking more offerings like avocados (which Equal Exchange now imports from Mexico), garlic, pineapple, mangos and berries.
Retailers are also carrying Fair Trade health and beauty products, like those from Dr. Bronner’s.
Read more: SN's coverage of the beverage categories
“Retailers are now offering Fair Trade products in every part of the store,” said North.
In 2013, Fair Trade USA partnered with 73 new companies (for a total of 780) and helped launch 600 new Fair Trade Certified products into the North American market. Fair Trade USA is a third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America.
The majority of consumers say it’s important to purchase products that treat people fairly by providing safe working conditions (87%), fair compensation (81%) and opportunities for kids to go to school (74%), found a Fair Trade USA study.
However, only one in five Americans (18%) are purchasing Fair Trade regularly.
“Consumers are very interested in Fair Trade, but they don’t always purchase Fair Trade,” said Don Stuart, managing partner of Cadent Consulting Group, Wilton, Conn.
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