Changing the Face of Fairtrade Wines

Stellenrust wine

“Research shows that over half of UK adults consider how food is produced when deciding which products to buy,” says the vice-president for McDonald’s UK supply chain, Warren Anderson. When the leading fast food company is taking provenance and supply chain this seriously, you can be sure it’s foremost on the agenda across the entire food and drink category.  

In South Africa, ethical farming and production has long been discussed and part of responsible wineries’ market strategy.  Through bodies such as Fairtrade and WIETA, many wineries have taken a stand to promote South Africa as an ethically sound wine producer.

However it is still the case that too many Fairtrade wines are simply too cheap, a situation caused by promotion driven consumer purchases and the need to sell big volumes of wine to recoup the costs of Fairtrade accreditation.

The Fairtrade Association needs to work hard to educate consumers about the importance of ethical trading and how buying habits can really make a difference. Everyone involved in selling Fairtrade wine needs to try and create demand for wines based on a desire to buy ethically.

The organic movement has done this very successfully over the last decade, now Fairtrade has to do the same. We all need to get out of the selfish buying habits we have become accustomed to and seek out the best wines that actually have a positive social impact.

There is no reason why Fairtrade wines should all be at the cheap end of the market as there is absolutely no link between ethical practices and cost-cutting winemaking. This perceived price relation is one of the reasons that Graham Beck Wines have continued to work independently in their community.  Having worked with the local community for over 30 years, they have a full support programme including a Development Trust and a Skills Centre.  In fact, they run a lot of training for the agricultural industry to comply with ethical trading codes, such as Fairtrade and WIETA.

Stellenrust, Stellenbosch

Stellenrust, Bibendum’s Fairtrade partner from Stellenbosch South Africa, grow all their grapes as well as making the wines so they have the full process in house and the families working on the estate are part of the bigger picture.

At Stellenrust, all the money raised from sales of Fairtrade wine – as well as additional support provided by the winery - is allocated to a single fund which is managed by the farm workers and used for the direct benefit of their community in terms of health, education and living standards. It is beginning to make a real difference.

Tertius Boshoff, owner of Stellenrust, says, ‘It has always been the family’s ideal to give back as much as we can to the community that work the vineyards… Overall people are willing to pay the extra premium for the cause as Fairtrade has manifested itself as a trusted brand’.

If we can communicate stories such as this more effectively to consumers we can create more demand for high quality, ethical wines that taste good, sell profitably and improve the lives of the growers and their families.

Fairtrade wine is on the up in the UK but there is still a lot of work to be done if we are serious about improving the quality, reputation and sales of these wines in the UK.

20th November 2013

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