We are in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight which runs this year from 22nd February to the 7th March. I have to be honest and admit that while lately I have made a conscious decision to buy more local produce, I don’t regularly buy Fairtrade. It’s not that I don’t agree with the concept – I think it’s sound. It’s just that in practice, when I enter a supermarket, my shopping brain assumes that a Fairtrade product will automatically be more expensive.
But the Fairtrade Foundation is calling on people to get involved in an initiative called The Big Swap. They want consumers to switch items for Fairtrade ones during Fairtrade Fortnight and vote with their wallets for better treatment for workers in developing countries. So I visited my local supermarket this week to investigate the products and prices on offer.
Rightly or wrongly, when I think of Fairtrade I think of bananas and coffee. As a household we don’t tend to drink coffee regularly but we do purchase Fairtrade bananas. And there’s a reason why. When I went to look at the prices of the non-Fairtrade bananas to compare them with the Fairtrade ones, I couldn’t find any. Waitrose, our local supermarket wasn’t selling non-Fairtrade bananas. I’m not sure if this is because it’s Fairtrade week or if this is normally the case, but when I mentioned this to DJ (who is the banana buyer in our household) he said he rarely spotted any non-Fairtrade bananas in other supermarkets we go to, such as Asda, nowadays. The small bananas were 18.4p each or £1.29 for a bag (£2 for 2). That said, a non-Fairtrade pineapple from Costa Rica I found in the fruit and veg section was selling for £1.49 compared with £1.99 for a Fairtrade version from Ghana.
Never having looked at them before, I was knocked out by the sheer number of Fairtrade coffees on offer in the tea and coffee aisle. There were at least ten different varieties and I was surprised to find the prices pretty competitive too. We’re not big coffee drinkers but keep a jar of instant for visitors and a change now and again. DJ is a fan of Café Noire, so we normally get that. But at £3.12 for 100g, it was easily beaten on price by Clipper Fairtrade freeze-dried Arabica at £2.67, FFI Fair Instant at £2.50 and Percol Americano Fairtrade for £2.39 per 100g. Time to swap, I think! I also hadn’t realised that there is Fairtrade hot chocolate available. At £3.20 for 400g (80p per 100g) the Fairtrade Clipper instant hot choc is a cheaper buy than my usual Highlights jar which costs £3.10 for 220g (£1.41 per 100g).
DJ and I are fussy about our tea and drink a lot of it. Unfortunately there weren’t as many varieties of Fairtrade tea on offer as coffees, but I managed to find three – Café Direct¸ Good Earth and Clipper Fairtrade, which wasn’t bad. Prices varied. A ‘buy two packets of 160 teabags for £6.50’ deal for the Café Direct (normally £4.29 for one) meant that the price of 85.8p per 100g was very close to the price of our usual brand, Yorkshire Tea (hard water) which was selling for 85p for 100g. Clipper and Good Earth were more expensive, though, at 99.6p per 100g and £1.30 per 100g respectively.
Another surprise, while shopping for cereals, was Fairtrade muesli. I’d never spotted it before. Traidcraft muesli was selling for £1.99 for 500g (39.8p per 100g). OK, so it wasn’t the cheapest product on offer – Waitrose’s own brand sells for £1.35 for 750g (18p per 100g). But compared to Alpen at £2.99 for 650g (46p per 100g) and Swiss Style Whole Earth at £2.56 for 750g (34.1p for 100g) it wasn’t bad. I bought some and it’s very tasty.
All in all, my impression of Fairtrade trade products as expensive has been largely swept away by this exercise. There are still some products which are a bit pricy, but some of the beverage products are competitively priced as well as ethical, which I feel is important in the current climate. I will definitely be swapping some of my usual buys.
Would you swap your usual buys for Fairtrade alternatives? Do you think the prices are competitive or are you happy paying extra for your principles? Leave a message and let me know.
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