Fair trade is on the rise in Germany. Nowhere is the growth in sales of certified products so high. Consumers are shifting to fairer alternatives, particularly for items such as bananas, coffee and roses.
A transparent production chain, sick pay and maternity leave for employees and complying with climate policies are the goals of the Fairtrade organization. Certified products in Germany recorded revenue growth of 23 percent last year, which translates into a rise in sales of 654 million euros. Of this amount, 95 million euros directly benefit producer countries.
The sector has witnessed double digit growth rates in the German market over the past 12 years - a success story that other branches can only dream of. During this period, Germany also edged ahead of other countries, and it currently occupies third place, after the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Fair trade from discount stores
Dieter Overath, CEO of Fairtrade Germany, says that German market is "extremely discount-driven" and food prices are very low. More than 90 percent of all Germans shop at a discount store once a week, he points out, adding that these are not the best conditions for Fairtrade to recommend products that are a bit more expensive. But at the same time, there is a growing awareness that "we all share responsibility for the prevalence of child labor and exploitation in third world countries," Overath told DW.
Fair trade goods are perceived as a viable alternative to conventional production, despite the price. As a result, these products have found a place on the shelves of large discount retail chains such as Lidl, Penny and Netto.
Last year, another retail outlet, Aldi, also successfully incorporated Fairtrade bananas and coffee in its regular list of products. Now that the products are more visible, customers are increasingly going for the good-conscience option: 50 percent of bananas sold at Aldi are fair trade, 26 percent of flowers and 20 percent of all coffee products.
Bananas, flowers and coffee
This type of growth within one year is "far more than just a symbol," said Overath. While fair trade coffee currently has a market share of 2.5 percent, one out of every four roses sold in Germany and every other banana are already being supplied by certified businesses, and a new Fairtrade product is launched in the German market every day.
But sales of cocoa beans fell slightly in 2013 and the market share stood at just 0.2 percent. A "partnership" model is now expected to provide the solution. The model was previously used in cases of sugar and cotton, where companies were obliged to partially migrate to fair trade poducts.
Five major partners - Ferrero, Mars, and the supermarket chains Lidl, Rewe and Kaufland - have been found for cocoa. In the meanwhile, these retail outlets have been purchasing thousands of tons of cocoa according to fair criteria, leading to a sevenfold increase in sales in the first months of the year.
"This means the cocoa farmers in West Africa, particularly in Ivory Coast, are finally able to sell their harvest on fair terms," said Overath.
According to him, Fairtrade has become a label that "lives and participates." The outlook also seems brighter, with the association estimating a significant growth in all product categories. In 2015, the sales volume could cross the one-billion euro mark, as happened in the UK.