Fair Trade bananas typically cost more than their conventional counterparts, but a growing number of consumers are willing to pay the higher price.
U.S. imports of Fair Trade certified bananas were up 22% in the first six month of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, said Jenna Larson, public relations manager for Fair Trade USA, the Oakland, Calif.-based third-party certifier of Fair Trade products.
A recent survey by the Natural Marketing Institute shows that awareness of the Fair Trade Certified label among U.S. shoppers increased from 38% to more than 50% since 2012, Larson said.
“The reality is that consumers increasingly want to know who and where their products come from,” Larson said. “We recently conducted another consumer survey which found that 74% of American consumers believe it’s important to purchase products that treat people fairly. Fair Trade makes this possible. When shoppers see a bag of coffee, a chocolate bar or a banana with the Fair Trade Certified label, they know that the farmers and workers who produced it were paid fair wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and earn additional premiums to invest in their communities.”
Banana distributors and retailers can do their part to help educate shoppers about Fair Trade products. Simcha Weinstein, director of marketing for Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics Inc., said the company provides stores with point-of-sale signs and other materials to let customers know how Fair Trade works.
Weinstein said Albert’s has contributed more than $630,000 in community development funds to banana growing communities in Ecuador and Peru through its purchases since 2006.
“This support helps provide small farmers direct access to international markets and the tools and resources they need to succeed and thrive,” Weinstein said. “Fair Trade funding makes sustainable local development in rural and poor communities possible. It allows farmers and workers to develop infrastructure that improves their communities and their lives. These include providing dental and health care programs, clinics for direct medical care, organic gardens for superior nutrition, compost available to all farmers, the care and cleaning of their drinking water, education for workers, safety programs, protective equipment, running water, bathrooms, education for students, marches to support workers’ rights and participation in banana forums.”