Whole Foods commits to fair trade future

In a move that could significantly impact both suppliers and manufacturers, the world's biggest natural, organic and whole foods retailer, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, has launched a proprietary ingredients and products sourcing scheme that will operate in a similar fashion to existing Fair Trade Certified programmes that promote responsible buying of ingredients and produce such as botanicals and coffee from developing nations.

Ingredients and food manufacturers will have to meet strict criteria to carry the Whole Trade Guarantee mark, and Whole Foods said it hoped 50 per cent of its imports from the third world would do so within 10 years.

Whole Trade Guarantee was developed in conjunction with TransFair USA — the only US Fair Trade certifier — as well as international certifier the Rainforest Alliance, who will ensure products that carry the mark meet such criteria as:

  • Exceptional quality
  • More money for farmers
  • Better wages and working conditions for workers
  • Sound environmental production practices that promote biodiversity

"As part of the programme, products including coffee, bananas and chocolate from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms will be sold at Whole Foods Market stores throughout the United States and Canada," the Rainforest Alliance said in a statement. "The Company will also offer a variety of other products, including tea, cocoa, mangoes, rice, sugar and vanilla, that meet program requirements."

Whole Foods said it hoped the scheme would accelerate the launch of other Fair Trade Certified categories.

"We expect the Whole Trade program to assist us in continuing the incredible growth in demand for Fair Trade Certified products," said TransFair USA CEO and President Paul Rice.

One per cent of Whole Trade product sales will go to the Whole Planet Foundation, which provides micro loans to female entrepreneurs in the developing world .

Whole Foods has over 190 stores in North America and the UK and recently announced plans to acquire the second largest US natural foods retailer, Wild Oats.

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