Sainsbury’s not moving away from Fairtrade wine

The Fairtrade Foundation has said there was “no indication” that UK retailer Sainsbury’s was considering axing the Fairtrade label on some of its wines and moving to its own ‘fairly traded’ scheme, despite media speculation that it would extend a pilot scheme for its own ethical scheme from tea to other categories.

The announcement that the retailer will cease to use the Fairtrade label across much of its own-label teas (apart from its premium Taste the Difference teas) has sparked fears that other products could follow suit, threatening to “bring Fairtrade crashing down”, The Guardian newspaper reported recently. 

However a Sainsbury’s spokesman told db that it didn’t “have any information to share on Fairtrade wines,” adding that “currently, we are running a pilot on tea only”.

The retailer had previously acknowledged that customers would still be able to buy Fairtrade certified tea from its Taste the Difference range, as well as their own-label Fairtrade bananas, coffee, chocolate and flowers – but no mention has been made of its wines.

The retailer currently lists ten Fairtrade wines on its website, including all of its own-label Taste the Difference South African wines.

A spokesmen from the Fairtrade Foundation said “there has been no indication that we’re aware of that Sainsbury’s are considering moving wine to their own fairly trade standard”, adding that it could not comment on the speculation.

But Nick Day, Europe’s sales director for Argentinian producer La Riojana, which is one of the largest Fairtrade producers in South America, told db that the Fairtrade mark needed “active support” from retailers.

Speaking to db for our upcoming feature on ethical wines, he said. “The Fairtrade mark does a great job in raising the profile of ethical wine in markets all over Europe, but it needs proactive support from retailers in order to generate the sales and social premium necessary to really make a difference.”

Growing demand

The rising demand for ethically traded and produced wine has been rising, according to the Fairtrade Foundation’s Kate Willis, who noted the move was being driven by retailers, with more UK retailers becominng interested in getting behind the Fairtrade logo.

“There’s a definite call for more Fairtrade wine,” Willis told db. “Retailers are driving it and it’s no longer a niche market.”

She pointed to a situation last year when two retailers nearly ran out of two key grape varieties. “It could have been a disaster – but I think there is definitely more interest,” she said.

Miguel Torres Maczassek, general manager of Bodegas Torres in Chile told db that retailers and restaurants wanted to better communicate their own values to the consumers, as consumer interest was also rising.

“The reason for having Fairtrade or organic viticulture is a way to communicate about yourself, your shop, restaurant or company – and I think this will happen more and more,” he said.

Being certified by the Fairtrade organisation means members and workers benefit from the Fairtrade Premium, Day points out, which is invested in projects that directly benefit growers, such as investment in free fertiliser for co-operative members, or social projects in the community, such as a new drinking supply, community clinic or schools in rural areas.

For a closer look at ethical wine production, please see the August issue of The Drinks Business. 

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