Although the beverage trade remains a little cynical, it is now generally reckoned that it is a good thing for local caterers to be seen to support the Fairtrade movement.
Every year during Fairtrade Fortnight the ethical-trading organisations stir up a vast amount of public support. Last year about 10,000 events were held, from fashion shows to concerts and exhibitions.
So is it a good thing for the catering industry to get involved with this? Independent supplier of Cafédirect beverages, Peros, believes so. This year Cafédirect is running a roadshow during the fortnight and caterers are invited to take part in a series of business breakfasts to meet local business people and some of Cafédirect's grower partners.
"Remember that you are not on your own," says Peros managing director James Roberts, who thinks taking part in local action can help a caterer make the most of the event. "Over this period, every customer will have been in a local supermarket at least twice, and as every single supermarket is promoting it, they can't possibly have missed it. The angle for the caterer is: you've heard about it, now try it."
There is an increasing number of new products to use, as the roster of brands and products featuring Fairtrade continues to grow. There are now 20 different types of Fairtrade tea available from about 40 different brands and there are 70 different suppliers of Fairtrade-marked coffee.
Among those that have new and improved products is Cafédirect itself, whose managing director Clive Gardiner reports some impressive successes in big sites, such as Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium. "Our new soluble coffees will change every three months according to origin," he says. "It is quite a step to have a tag on the lid which says Nicaragua."
Percol coffee company has recently seen a 30% rise in sales of its Fairtrade Instant Espresso (a contradiction in terms that the company happily acknowledges) and, surprisingly, there is low trade awareness of the fact that Percol also supplies its own Fairtrade roast-and-ground coffee. Percol was awarded gold in 2006 for both its Fairtrade Organic Guatemala ground coffee and its Organic Rainforest Mexico coffee at the Great Taste Awards.
The Down to Earth tea range from First Choice, winner of the Hot Beverages category in the Caterer Group Excellence in Food and Drink Awards 2006, offers high-quality Fairtrade and organic real leaf teas, and 70% of First Choice coffee sales are now certified. "There is a massive swing towards business in anything certified, that helps with CSR, supports a cause, helps the planet, is recyclable or biodegradable," says managing director Elaine Higginson. "Our Down to Earth tea offers the customer a quality tea that is ethically sourced."
A new range of quality Fairtrade coffees from Metropolitan of London has been based on the aim of producing "a better Fairtrade espresso". The company says it was not convinced by the quality of many off-the-shelf Fairtrade coffees and wanted to show that an exceptional quality was possible. Its Integrity has been taken by one major UK pub chain and more than 40 independents. The Natural Coffee Company has put together a complete range of organic and Fairtrade teas and coffees, available also in own-brand packaging. Coffee Care of Yorkshire has launched a new Fairtrade Viennese coffee, blended with 10% fig seasoning. Williamson Fine Teas has now received Fairtrade accreditation for two of its Kenyan tea farms.
FFI has produced an unusual new instant coffee with a double purpose. The new Fair Instant is a Fairtrade product that also supports Save the Children, with 50p from every 500g drum going to support vulnerable children in Colombia. And Java Republic of Dublin has proved that Fairtrade coffees can be good - it has won 57 Great Taste medals for excellence.
First for fairtrade
Perhaps the most unusual Fairtrade product yet is a brand-new one. Espresso Warehouse of Glasgow has created Essenz, a flavoured syrup that can create the world's first Fairtrade Vanilla Latte. Strangely, the product at first included no Fairtrade vanilla, because supplies of that are so rare. It achieved Fairtrade accreditation because of the large amount of Fairtrade cane sugar. Now, a source of Fairtrade vanilla has been achieved.
Harriet Lamb, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, says: "Many people still only think of tea and coffee when they think of Fairtrade, but there is now a huge range of products, and a huge range of choice in each product category."
Fairtrade Fortnight is from 26 February to 11 March. For more information visit www.fairtrade.org.uk.
The roster of Fairtrade brands and products is continuing to grow
- Cafédirect 020 7490 9520 www.cafedirect.co.uk
- Coffee Care 01756 794811
- Espresso Warehouse 0141-420 2422 www.espressowarehouse.com
- First Choice Coffee 01908 275520 www.firstchoicecoffee.com
- FFI 020 8549 9371 www.finefoodsintl.co.uk
- Java Republic 00 353 1 456 5506 www.javarepublic.com
- Metropolitan Coffee Company 020 8743 8959 www.metropolitancoffee.co.uk
- Natural Coffee Company 01442 234427 www.organicnaturalcoffeecompany.co.uk
- Percol 020 7978 5300 www.percol.co.uk
- Peros 01494 436426 www.peros.co.uk
- Williamson Fine Teas 01582 813814 www.williamsontea.com