Fairtrade to run coffee-themed autumn promotion

The Fairtrade Foundation, whose annual awareness Fortnight in the spring has never really fulfilled its possible potential with regard to the promotion of hot beverages, is to run a second event this autumn concentrating solely on ethically-sourced coffee. The Foundation is taking the event sufficiently seriously to say that its backing will be ‘a media spend twice that of Fairtrade Fortnight ’.

The campaign is a two-week one and the major incentive to attract public attention is the opportunity to win a trip to an exotic coffee-growing origin (a reasonable guess at the location would seem to be Peru).

The event is being largely driven by the enthusiasm of Fairtrade’s product manager Kate Lewis, who has herself just returned from a visit to origin in Central America. The trip and the promotional event, she says, are both more aimed at delivering trade support than Fairtrade has been known for in the past.

“We have been to Costa Rice, Honduras and Nicaragua, partly to see what’s happening with leaf rust, and partly to respond to requests from a lot of our trade customers, who want to know more – they say: ‘we know what Fairtrade is, but what’s the real impact?’“

This, she acknowledges, is a change of emphasis for Fairtrade. The organisation’s promotional work in the past has concentrated too much on consumers recognising the Fairtrade Mark, and perhaps too little on practical support for the beverage trade.

“A lot of our story in the past has been consumer-focussed, and the consumers want the touchy-feely stories – but the trade wants to know about productivity and quality,” acknowledges Kate Lewis. “So, our meetings over there were structured around what the trade here wants to know – crop yields and so on. So this time we are not bringing back pictures of grinning farmers, but of their nurseries and organic farms.

“We have been looking into the question of ‘the thin months’,” (the periods in which even Fairtrade-supported farmers are alleged to go without food, highlighted by Coffee House magazine last year), “and we have found that a lot of farmers have used their Fairtrade premium to create new sources of income, such as growing bananas or oranges – not for export, but for their local sales. Some co-ops have used the Fairtrade premium to create low-interest loan programmes.

“A lot of conversations were about leaf rust. We now have some positive stories about organic methods improving yields, which is a huge effect. When we raised the premium, the extra was to be used for investment in quality – and it has been. We have found that they are experimenting, and one co-op in Costa Rica has used the premium for a test plantation to try out crop-resistant diseases.”

The awareness campaign in September and October is intended to not just promote the concept of Fairtrade coffee, but to promote the coffee trade in the eyes of the public.

“It is a consumer-facing campaign, but to be used as a tool for catering businesses, because it will be driven through point-of-sale at outlets.

“For the public, the theme is to buy a Fairtrade product, get a code, go to the website, and win a trip to origin. There is a celebrity involvement – the consumer views online a film of the celebrity, and has to guess where they are.

“We are doing it because the trade has asked us to communicate the Fairtrade coffee message. We have tried to make this eminently suitable for independent coffee-shops, because the requirement from them is limited – we are providing the free point-of-sale material. We have really taken on board the trade feedback, and this is the coffee-specific campaign they wanted.

“We may have to tailor it further, but at the moment the feedback we are getting suggests that the trade likes the format.”

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This story, by Coffee House magazine, has appeared on the Caffe Culture Portal, the news site run by the UK’s main coffee trade show. http://www.caffeculture.com

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