From Green Right Now Reports

Fair Trade USA, a major third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US, reported today that sales of Fair Trade certified goods grew by about 75 between the first and last quarters of 2011.

Spicely, a growing fair trade user.

Mainstream grocery, food and drug items grew even faster, recording a 95 percent increase in fair trade sales, a boom that was largely driven by the adoption of Fair Trade labels by major food brands like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Honest Tea, which have increased their Fair Trade commitments.

Fair Trade USA said Ben and Jerry’s use of Fair Trade ingredients underpinned a growth rate of 394 percent in the frozen desserts category, while Honest Tea’s upgrading propelled a 37 percent increase in Fair Trade ready-to-drink beverages, according to SPINS LLC, which analyzed sales data for Fair Trade USA. (The ready-to-drink category is so named to distinguish it from coffee beans and tea, which already account for a large slice of Fair Trade foods.

The review by SPINS also called out a tenfold increase in the cookie, snack and energy bar category, which has been led by LÄRABAR.

Spices also are becoming increasingly available as Fair Trade goods, sold by companies like Frontier Natural Products Co-op and Spicely.

Baking mixes and sweeteners also recorded phenomenal growth, increasing by 51 percent and 72 percent respectively in 2011.

A statement by Fair Trade USA noted that, according to a recent survey, consumers will choose fair trade or other socially conscious products over competing brands, when price and quality are similar.

Fair Trade-certified products come from around the world and are audited to assure that farmers and workers supplying goods to companies are paid a fair wage, work in safe conditions and operate in a way that protects the environment and helps their communities.

Ben and Jerry's, taking fair trade mainstream.

Other certifiers of goods that are fairly and sustainably traded include the Rainforest Alliance and Fair for Life Social & FairTrade Programme also known as the IMO certification.

In addition to carrying a certification, many fair trade companies, also belong to the Fair Trade Federation, which operates as a trade association, educating the public about fair trade and advocating for best practices.

Last year, several companies that use fairly traded goods complained that Fair Trade USA, formerly known as TransFair, was usurping the concept of “Fair Trade” by changing its name to “Fair Trade USA.” The complaint, launched by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and supported by other companies as well as the Organic Consumers Association, alleged that Fair Trade USA was allowing some personal body products to claim certification even though they used less than 10 percent Fair Trade ingredients.

The petitioners asked the US Federal Trade Commissions to investigate whether TransFair’s name change to Fair Trade USA was an unfair attempt to dominate the fair trade movement, which had developed decades before.

The effort to force TransFair to continue to use its original name continues. Dr. Bronner’s and the OCA report that about 10,000 consumers have sent protest letters to the FTC.

A statement posted on the OCA website explained:

Fair trade is a movement not a brand and its promise and reach is much bigger than that of TransFair or any single certifier or other fair trade organization. Many in the movement feel TransFair needs to be checked, and consumers educated about alternatives, in particular IMO’s Fair for Life certification program. To prevent TransFair from monopolizing and abusing the term “Fair Trade”, the Organic Consumers Association and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It details the issues and problems with TransFair, along with illustrative “fair trade cheater brands” like Avon/Mark and Hain Celestial/Queen Helene.

In January, Fair Trade USA, unveiled a newly designed certification label and announced clarifications in its certification policy. The non-profit now more clearly delineates which products use 100 percent fair trade ingredients and which products use only a portion of fair trade components. It explained its bifurcated certification system this way:

Under the revised Ingredients Policy, which applies to all food and personal care products, only products that contain 100 percent Fair Trade Certified ingredients may bear the full Fair Trade Certified label. Products containing at least 20 percent Fair Trade Certified ingredients will now bear a new Fair Trade Certified Ingredients label…

This globally-registered mark, already beginning to appear on store shelves across the nation, offers a simple labeling solution to companies working with Fair Trade USA in multiple countries. The two versions of the label, Fair Trade Certified and Fair Trade Certified Ingredients, clearly highlight the difference between products with varying percentages of Fair Trade Certified ingredients.