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Fair trade booming

Want a break from the gloom and doom numbers out there? Take a look at fair trade. Not only is this category growing in sales and awareness, but the number of individuals benefitting from higher prices for their labor and goods is also on the rise.

According to a report just released by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, fair trade certification benefited about 1.2 million producers around the world in 2009. The organization estimates that this number will hit 1.5 million by late 2010.

Fair trade sales in the United States are growing, especially in conventional outlets. In 2009, conventional channel fair trade product sales grew a whopping 36 percent, according to Schaumburg, Ill.,-based market research firm SPINS. The natural channel saw a healthy growth of 9 percent for the same time period. Does this indicate that consumers have a heart even during a tough economy? Sure seems like it.

These numbers also position natural retailers well for conventional shoppers who cotton to fair trade and then see bountiful offerings at naturals store versus mass stores.

FLO recently engaged in a strategic overhaul that is allowing for more products to earn fair trade certification. For example, now, any seed, root, flower or leaf that is grown by a certified farmer can be fair trade. It also amended its global business model so that companies can gain easier access to fair trade products. Consider:Starbucks doubled its fair trade coffee purchases as a result. Pretty good news.

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