Fair Trade inspires more broadly focused GROW program

11/02/2012 01:26:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

For Organics Unlimited, San Diego, Fair Trade-certified products are only a small portion of the ethically and environmentally responsible products they offer.

The company’s GROW brand was developed to help fund programs, such as educational opportunities and health services, for farm workers and their families.

The GROW brand name was formed from the phrase “Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers.”

Mayra Velazquez de Leon, chief executive officer, said the GROW brand makes up about 85% of their sales, while Fair Trade certified bananas are only about 2%.

The main difference between the two options is the price.

“Fair Trade establishes their own price, while GROW bananas are simply 60 cents more than the market per 40-pound box,” she said. “Other than that, the benefits are the same.”

Velazquez de Leon said most people are willing to pay that slight increase. Fair Trade bananas can be significantly higher priced.

“We haven’t really seen Fair Trade grow in sales,” Velazquez de Leon said.

However, Velazquez de Leon says Organics Unlimited supports and promotes both labels.

“We do not compete between the two labels,” she said. “We handle both of them and some people just prefer the Fair Trade because it has more publicity.”

She does say that publicity and education are two areas the industry needs to improve in regards to promoting these brands.

“There are a lot of companies that have other similar labels and that can be misleading to consumers,” she said.

Of course, she’s not against the use of individual brands, as long as efforts are taken to explain exactly what each label stands for.

“Distributors may know the difference between these, but consumers don’t,” she said.

Not all organic bananas are Fair Trade, and vice versa, even though consumers may think that, she said.

“There needs to be a lot of education coming from retail stores,” she said.

All in all, though, Velazquez de Leon said that no matter the label, it’s likely that organic customers will be interested.

“Organic customers are a lot more concerned with the issues like sustainability and carbon footprints,” she said. “To someone who isn’t as interested in what they are eating, it’s usually not as important to think about the carbon footprint.”



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