Boost coffee sales with fair trade options

If there’s one over-arching trend in foodservice today, it’s this: Consumers want to know everything they can about what they’re eating and drinking.

fair trade coffee

Consumers, especially those in the youngest demographics, seek out the stories of how their food was produced, where it came from, and who created it.

That explains the growing interest in sustainable and Fair Trade coffees. 61% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase sustainable items at bakery and coffee cafes, and 51% say the same about Fair Trade products at those cafés, according to Technomic’s 2016 Bakery & Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report.

What’s more, 22% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for Fair Trade items at bakery and coffee cafes, the report found.

This spells opportunity for operators. McDonald’s currently sources 37% of its coffee from sustainable sources, according to Bloomberg. But the fast-food company recently said it would buy all its coffee from sustainable sources by 2020.

And it’s not just commercial operators who are focusing on ethically sourced products. “On college campuses, particularly, they’re very much aware and interested in (Fair Trade coffee),” says Stephen Schulman, a licensed Q Grader and longtime coffee-industry consultant.

So, what is Fair Trade coffee?

Fair Trade sits under the umbrella of sustainability, ensuring it was produced in a way that does little or no harm to the environment, and observes fair labor and pricing practices. In addition to coffee, some 30 product categories are eligible for Fair Trade certification, according to the Fair Trade USA advocacy group.

Fair Trade certification began in the late 1980s, when the supply of coffee outpaced the demand. Under Fair Trade, coffee prices were artificially inflated to provide profitable wages for growers.

To be called “Fair Trade” coffee must be certified sustainable, and it must guarantee a living wage for producers.

“All things being equal, people want to know their dollars are doing good,” Schulman says.
Fair Trade coffee typically costs more than conventional varieties, but it can be worth it to attract consumers, Schulman says.

“The millennials like to see it,” he says. “The next generation wants to know about sources. There’s a bit of supply-chain transparency it brings.”

Making the move to Fair Trade coffee fits well with a couple of on-trend initiatives being played out in foodservice around the country, such as upgrading coffee programs and enhancing sustainability. Further, offering Fair Trade coffee differentiates a program from the competition while creating a premium user experience.

Fair Trade items are branded with a recognizable logo. Operators should make sure to play it up on menus, signage, and social media to ensure guests know they carry certified sustainable products.

“The logo is what it’s all about,” Schulman says. “You have to call it out … If you’re going to spend the money for it, you need to speak to it.”

This post is sponsored by Keurig Green Mountain