Socially Responsible Food Is On the Rise in the U.S., New Report Says

New data released by Fair Trade USA reveals a significant growth in socially responsible food. The biggest third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. said that data for its fresh produce program shows strong growth across nearly every source country and product, which translates into more than 71.5 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified fresh fruit and vegetables imported in 2011, or a 40 percent increase over 2010.

But Americans are not only going bananas over Fair Trade fresh produce. New additions such as watermelons, bell peppers, cantaloupes, tomatoes and others have made it into the Fair Trade Certified produce mix.

“There’s a lot of momentum right now as retailers start to see positive sales data and ask more of their growers to get Fair Trade Certified,” said Hannah Freeman, Director of Produce and Floral for Fair Trade USA. “They see Fair Trade as a way to invest in the sustainability of their supply chain while giving consumers the traceability they increasingly seek when purchasing fresh produce. It’s like a farmers market gone global.”
The organization anticipates that 2012 will be a success story, since over 55 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified produce were imported in the first half of the year, which is more than in 2010.

All this growth meant farmers and their workers could earn almost $1.8 million in community development premiums in 2011 alone. These premiums are used for community-elected development projects that support education, healthcare, environment, business management, quality improvement and productivity.

Increasing demand and certification of new products and farms were the main drivers of the expansion. In 2010, the only Fair Trade Certified produce items available at supermarkets were bananas, citrus, mangoes and pineapples. Between 2011 and 2012, Fair Trade USA has made eight new products available to U.S. consumers with the introduction of new Fair Trade farms in Northern Mexico. At least four additional fresh products are expected to be imported during the last half of 2012.

Organic produce import is also on the rise and in 2011 it grew by approximately 63 per cent, from 26 million pounds to more than 42 million pounds. The overlap between Fair Trade and organic in the U.S. now exceeds 60 percent.

Image credit: Fair Trade USA