Is price a barrier to ethical food sales?

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fairtrade foundation Fair trade Fairtrade

Fairtrade Foundation is building awareness of the certification scheme during Fairtrade Fortnight
Fairtrade Foundation is building awareness of the certification scheme during Fairtrade Fortnight
Almost half of shoppers in the UK are discouraged from buying ethical food because of its price – but the Fairtrade Foundation insists fairtrade products offer “something for everybody”.

According to a new study, commissioned by ethical certification, 45% of people in the UK are “put off”​ buying ethical products because they are “too expensive”​. A similar number of respondents – 46% - said that they are unaware of exploitation in the food chain while a quarter of people said they never think about who makes their food.

The price factor was also reflected in people’s choice of where to shop. The new research showed 88.3% of people identify price as the most important factor when considering where to shop. This is closely followed by the quality of products, at 88.2% and the location, at 71.6%. The ethical credentials of the store was identified as an important factor by almost half of respondents at 49.1%.

However, a spokesperson for the Fairtrade Foundation argued, increasing sales of fairtrade products in discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl demonstrate that “there is something for everyone at all price points”​.

“According to independent data from Kantar Worldpanel sales of fairtrade products grew by more than 20% at Aldi and more than 60% at Lidl last year. Price is, of course, very important to UK consumers but buying fairtrade needn’t be an expensive choice,”​ the spokesperson stressed.

Fairtrade growth

Overall, Kantar’s data demonstrated growth in UK fairtrade certified sales across the UK. Retail sales for fairtrade grew by 7% in 2017, with volumes up 2.5% in the period.

The Fairtrade Foundation said that growth was supported by increased business engagement, noting the launch of additional fairtrade products at convenience retailer The Co-Operative, Waitrose’s commitment to sourcing fairtrade tea, the expansion of Tesco’s Finest range of fairtrade wines, and the launch of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream by Unilever.

Speaking during Fairtrade Fortnight, the spokesperson suggested that the certification body can help businesses win consumer trust. Although the survey revealed 16% of consumers don’t buy ethical products because they “don’t trust claims”​ made about ethically-sourced products, the spokesperson insisted that the vast majority of consumers do trust fairtrade claims.

“Trust is vital to any company or organisation claiming to be ‘ethical.’ This research shows that actually the overwhelming majority of consumers in the UK (84%) do trust ethical companies,” the spokesperson told FoodNavigator. “Trust in fairtrade is higher than ever and on the rise: 83% of people say they trust fairtrade a rise of 13% from Q1 last year and 80% of people saying they care about fairtrade a huge rise from 54% from Q1 last year.”

Transparency to build trust

The Fairtrade Foundation is currently exploring “new ways of working with businesses”​ and is undertaking a supply chain mapping and transparency pilot project, which has been funded by the Department for International Development.

“Through this work fairtrade is well placed to play an influential role as a partner to businesses looking to tackle human rights abuses and modern slavery risks in their supply chains,”​ the spokesperson said.

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