fairtradeA new report from Mintel finds that despite the economic downturn, Brits are still prepared to fork out for Fairtrade.

While commodity products such as tea and coffee have done really well, it is bananas that have really captured the nation’s imagination. The start of the millennium saw the first Fairtrade banana hit our supermarket shelves, and since then sales have gone from strength to strength.

Indeed, according to latest findings from Mintel £1 in almost every £3 spent on bananas last year was used to buy Fairtrade, up from just £1 in every £11 in 2006.

It is important not underestimate the importance of the growing support amongst leading retailers. The shift by Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to stock only Fairtrade bananas from their basic ranges right through to the premium and organic ones has invariably had a huge impact on the market and consumer awareness.

Within the Fairtrade food and drink market, bananas accounted for the largest proportion – a third (31%) – of sales in 2008, with Brits spending £188 million on these ethically-sourced fruits last year alone.

Last year, the total Fairtrade market was worth £607 million, up an impressive 43% on 2007. This is compared to less than 10% annual growth in the locally sourced market. What is more, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) the UK was second only to the US in terms of new Fairtrade food and drink launches last year.

Looking to the future, commitment from the supermarkets and leading manufacturers such as Tate and Lyle, who converted its granulated white sugar to Fairtrade exactly a year ago, will help this market through these tougher times.

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