The 12th edition of the Fair Trade Fortnight opens Saturday May 12, with a thousand events to sensitize consumers.
A survey by the association Max Havelaar, unveiled exclusively by La Croix, shows that the French are very supportive of this approach.
But the brakes on purchasing remain strong and growth in the sector has been declining since 2009.
Sales of fair trade products are growing at a much slower pace than in the past in France. Between 2002 and 2005, turnover increased by almost 80% per year. In 2009, growth was still around 13%. Since then, it has fallen to 5% per year. “We have reached a level, a threshold effect,” admits Christophe Roturier, Deputy Director of the association Max Havelaar France.
The economic crisis, of course, explains this reversal. This is probably not the only reason. Max Havelaar commissioned the first study to understand the relationship between French consumers and fair trade products.
The association runs a Fairtrade Max Havelaar label which ensures the “fair” nature of a product by guaranteeing a decent income to small producers in the countries of the South. It also provides a “development bonus” to help cooperatives invest to improve returns, train producers, and facilitate access to care or education for children.
Fair trade labels
Other labels exist, notably Ecocert, but Max Havelaar remains a must: in France, it certifies 85% of fair trade products, whether they are sold in a specialized network, such as Artisans du monde, or in supermarkets under a National brand or distributor.
The results of this survey can be read in two ways. On the stack, three reasons for satisfaction. First, there is a strong consensus on the idea of fair trade, since 91% of French people consider it a “positive” or “very positive” approach . Among the most convinced are women (94%), favored socio-occupational categories (95%) and especially those aged 18-24 (100%).
Second, the share of those who “do not really know what fair trade is “ is now very low: 5%. “These figures highlight the willingness of the French to consume in a responsible way, analyzes Christophe Roturier. That is extremely encouraging. “
The price of fair trade products, brake the purchase
Finally, Max Havelaar welcomes the changing attitudes regarding the quality of products. Some consumers have long contested the properties of fair trade coffee or chocolate bars. Obviously, doubts have evaporated, as only 4% of respondents find equitable products “of lower quality”.
“Progress has been made, especially in cocoa,” says Christophe Roturier. Thanks to the development bonus, producer cooperatives have improved the bean fermentation and drying process. These steps are crucial to get a quality paste. “ In 2010, the amount of the premium amounted to 52 million euros.
Yet – this is the other side of the coin – this positive perception does not always turn into purchasing acts. The base of regular customers (a minimum purchase per month) has a ceiling of less than three in ten, and almost 20% of respondents say they never buy fair trade products. “This response is strong especially among young people and modest incomes,” says Christophe Roturier.
Price is the first barrier to purchase: 48% of respondents say they find it “too expensive “ . However, the supply of fair trade products has expanded considerably in recent times. “Fair trade chocolate and coffee are available at almost all prices,” says Christophe Roturier. To equal quality, they are a little more expensive than the others, it’s true. But the gap, limited to 0.10 or 0.20 €, is explained by the social and environmental guarantees that we bring.
For Max Havelaar, this wide range of awards is good news. “The objective is not to lock us into a niche market,” explains Christophe Roturier. This strategy is, however, double-edged, as many consumers – and even some fair players – are surprised to find labeled products sold at low prices.
The survey partly confirms these concerns, with 37% of respondents saying they are “not convinced that fair trade truly benefits small producers” is the second hindrance to buying. This proportion rises to 50% among those over 50 years of age. Undoubtedly fair trade pays its image difficult to read, due in particular to the marketing of products labeled “ sustainable “ or “solidarity”,which have sought to surf the wave at a lower cost.
“This figure is not a real surprise,” says Christophe Roturier. It is up to us to prove that it works, to us to show the impact for small producers, gathering testimonies and bringing our partners here. “ It is precisely the meaning of Fair Trade Fortnight , which opens Saturday, May 12
Two-thirds of sales are in large
– Fair trade generated around € 4.4 billion worldwide in 2010.
– In France, the increase in purchases has declined since 2009, with an increase of about 5% per year. In 2011, sales are expected to be slightly above EUR 350 million.
– Two thirds of the sales are in supermarkets. Specialized channels, such as cafes, hotels and restaurants, canteens, automatic distribution, are in full swing.
– Food accounts for 75% of sales. The other sectors (textile, deco, cosmetics) are developing rapidly.
– The best-selling products are coffee (40%), cocoa (20%), bananas (7%), cotton (6%) and tea (5%).
– The Fair Trade Fortnight is taking place from 12 to 27 May. More than 300 institutions (associations, specialized boutiques, local authorities, schools …) organize a thousand events.