Behind the scenes: consumers ethical Fairtrade choices on cocoa making a difference

As shoppers increasingly make ethical choices, they provide ‘vital lifeline’ for cocoa farmers, says Fairtrade movement as this month the industry marked World Chocolate Day. The organisation reveals key insights into consumer behaviour in buying ethical products- including confectionery

New GlobeScan research across 15 markets worldwide reveals that more people than ever before want to take personal action to live sustainably and buy more responsibly. In fact, over half (57%) consumers globally pledged to shop at stores or visit a cafe with a strong Fairtrade commitment. This data echoes a boom in Fairtrade sales in many countries in 2020 outside of the study, showing that consumer intentions are translating into action at the shelf.

Released to mark a new global Fairtrade cocoa campaign “Bitter Sweet” culminating on World Chocolate Day, which was held on 7 July, the data shows that chocolate remains one of the most iconic Fairtrade products – scoring highest recognition in Ireland and the Netherlands, while six in ten Gen-Z (18-24 year olds) globally prefer the charitable organisation’s chocolate above other labels.

Ensuring no child labour is a key motivator for shoppers, followed by reduced use of pesticides, tackling poverty, and protecting against deforestation – all of which are a core part of the charity’s mission.

GlobeScan’s general public opinion tracking indicates that interest in learning more about a company’s impact has risen by 15 percentage points since 2016. Younger consumers, especially those between 18 and 24, want to know more about what companies are doing to be socially and environmentally responsible, and less than half agree companies communicate honestly, implying a steep upward trend for a desire for more transparency.

Jon Walker, Fairtrade’s Senior Global Cocoa Advisor says: “People are paying more attention than ever before to the conditions behind the products they buy as a way to make a difference in the world. They don’t want their chocolate to leave a bitter taste. Choosing Fairtrade chocolate unwraps a fairer future for farmers and is a clear way to use their buying power to do good. The pandemic has sparked an increased global consciousness, changing the way we eat, and shop.”

A healthy consumer appetite for Fairtrade labelled produce over the past year has seen items fly off supermarket shelves in many markets, with a surge in demand for confectionery. According to GlobeScan, 95% of shoppers who have seen the Fairtrade label now say they buy some Fairtrade product throughout the year, with:

A fifth buying multiple products each month
A further fifth buying at least one product
Nearly six in ten pledging to shop at stores that have a strong commitment to Fairtrade products.
According to recent Ocado research, two thirds of their customers (64%) say it is important to include Fairtrade products in their shop and 22% of their customers say they buy a Fairtrade product weekly, indicating high intentional purchase of Fairtrade products in the UK market.

According to the Globescan research, 53% of people used their buying power to make a positive difference on an issue they care about over the past year. Many chose to put more Fairtrade items into shopping baskets over an alternative.

The U.S chocolate market expanded by 1.8% in 2020 to reach $18.92bn, according to Statista. And the US love affair with chocolate saw Fairtrade cocoa sales volumes top other commodities and grow by 27% over the year, resulting in almost $3 million in Fairtrade Premium payments for cocoa farmers.

In the UK, total sales of Fairtrade products in retail outgrew total grocery, increasing by 13.6% to reach over £1bn in the food and drink market, according to Kantar (April 2021). Its cocoa sales volumes topped other commodities and grow by 3% over the year, generating an outstanding £6 million in premium payments for cocoa farmers.

In the Netherlands, Fairtrade cocoa continued to experience strong growth of 16% in 2020. As a result, farmers that the organisation works with received approximately $3.1 million in Fairtrade Premium for cocoa beans sold to the Dutch market.

Meanwhile, sales of the global charity’s certified cocoa products in Belgium grew by 35% in 2020, according to their annual report.

“Increasingly people believe we can all play a part in influencing how companies behave though our shopping choices”, Walker added.

Peter d’Angremond, CEO of Fairtrade Netherlands said: “Fairtrade is big business now worldwide, especially when it comes to chocolate and confectionery, and firms are increasingly investing in their cocoa supply chains. Many brands and retailers have declared new commitments in the past year”.

New business commitments complement long-standing partnerships that continue to drive significant impact for cocoa farmers. Fairtrade’s 10-year collaboration with Mars for instance has generated around $8.5m in Premium, supporting 17,000 farmers to invest in their organisations and increase their earnings. Meanwhile committed Fairtrade retailers such as Co-op and Waitrose, who converted entire categories to using Fairtrade cocoa, continue to drive positive change for cocoa farmers.

Louisa Cox, the organisation’s Director of Impact said: “The upward trends in increased consumer demand for sustainability-driven purchasing seem likely to continue to shape the business of chocolate. Legislation that requires companies to ensure human rights are respected in supply chains is gathering force, including in the European Union. Supporting the creation of robust legislation – recognising living income as a human right – is another avenue for citizens to make their voice heard. At the same time, shoppers voting with their wallets is a very strong signal that can deliver real change for farmers.

“We are calling for legislation designed to put farmer and worker interests first, and which pushes business to invest in improvements, rather than simply avoiding problems.”



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