Raising the bar on sustainability: Co-op becomes first UK retailer to source 100% fairtrade cocoa

Co-op to source Fairtrade cocoa across all products 

First retailer in the UK to make this commitment

Volume of cocoa to be sourced by Co-op to increase five-fold

Announcement comes 15 years after Co-op launched UK’s only 100% Fairtrade own-brand chocolate bar range

On Saturday 25 February the Co-op announced that it is to become the first UK retailer to sell and use only Fairtrade cocoa in all of its products, from the chocolate sprinkles on its doughnuts to the chocolate chips in its Irresistible Triple Chocolate Cookies.

Working in partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation to create a new sourcing model, Co-op has now thrown down the gauntlet to other food retailers calling on them to follow its lead in increasing their commitment to Fairtrade cocoa farmers. 

The landmark move means that all cocoa in Co-op’s own-brand ranges will be bought entirely through a new retail-ready version of Fairtrade's Cocoa Sourcing Program, which has been developed over the last 12 months in collaboration with the Foundation.

Co-op is also announcing that its entire own-brand chocolate confectionery range will now carry the Fairtrade Mark – from chocolate bars and gift boxes to chocolate buttons and seasonal novelties.

The news comes 15 years after it became the first and only UK retailer to switch its entire own-brand chocolate bar range to Fairtrade.

Set to be worth an estimated £7.1m* to the industry, Co-op’s commitment will generate £450,000 in Fairtrade Premium per annum** for cocoa communities, ensuring that money goes directly in to the hands of the farmers.

The switch to 100% Fairtrade cocoa, which will include over 200 Co-op products, will be completed by the end of May 2017. It will see a five-fold rise in the amount of Fairtrade cocoa sourced by the retailer, taking the total tonnage from 526 to 2,848 tonnes.

Brad Hill, Co-op’s Fairtrade strategy manager, said: “The UK is the world's biggest Fairtrade market and the world’s fourth biggest consumer of chocolate, but our manufacturers and retailers still only source a tiny amount on Fairtrade terms. When we consider that demand for cocoa is set to rise by 30%*** over the next three years alone, it’s imperative that we keep moving forward with sustainability initiatives in order to shape this industry. We must help to improve the lives of farming communities who are still suffering a raw deal.”

Nick Crofts, president of the Co-op’s Members’ Council, said: “Today’s news is warmly welcomed. Ethical and responsible retailing are issues that sit at the very heart of our Co-op and we know that our members are passionate supporters of Fairtrade. Co-op once again has pioneered change and by partnering with Fairtrade to develop a new sourcing initiative we are not only helping to improve the lives of cocoa farming communities across the globe, but we are paving the way for others in the industry to play their part.”

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, commented: “Chocolate is often seen as an indulgence in the West, but for the millions of small-scale farmers who grow cocoa it can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity. We are very pleased to build on our longstanding partnership with the Co-op. As a leading retailer with strong ethical values, the Co-Op’s commitment to Fairtrade is exemplary. After 20 years the Co-op remains one of Fairtrade's most important allies in helping farmers get a better deal and this move again sets the standard for other retailers to follow.”

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* and ** Figures based on expected volume of metric tonnage and respective Fairtrade Premium which will be paid.

*** Fairtrade Foundation figures.