The pub chain JD Wetherspoon is brushing up its “ethical” credentials by serving up only Fairtrade sugar in all its pubs and hotels in the UK and Ireland.

The sugar – packaged in “sticks” and stamped with the familiar blue and green Fairtrade logo – will appear in its 874 pubs and 58 hotels in the UK and Ireland later this month at the start of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight.

Some 1.65 million farmers and workers in more than 74 developing countries benefit from the Fairtrade system, which guarantees decent working conditions and a minimum price. In the UK it is administered by the Fairtrade Foundation – an independent certification body that licenses the use of the ethical label on 5,000-plus products, from coffee, tea and sugar to bananas and flowers.

The sugar stocked by Wetherspoon’s is manufactured by Tate & Lyle Sugars, which has been working with the ethical certification scheme since 2008. Since then it has been part of generating a total of almost $60m (£46m) in the so-called Fairtrade premium – extra money which farmers receive on top of the market price they’re paid, which is used to help fund community projects. In 2018, the UK market alone generated €33.9m (£28.2m) in Fairtrade premium for producers.

JD Wetherspoon – known for its value-for-money food and drink offering – has worked with a separate ethical label, Rainforest Alliance, since 2008, and 100% of the tea and Lavazza coffee served by the chain comes from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms. The chain sells 55m cups of coffee a year.

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Wetherspoon’s head of food, Jameson Robinson, said: “The decision to now offer Fairtrade sugar for those drinks underlines our continued commitment to supporting farmers, producers and workers, here in the UK and overseas, who supply the products which we use and sell. We are proud that our pubs will very soon be serving Fairtrade sugar. We are certain this will be welcomed by our customers and staff.”

As well as discreetly sprucing up its ethical sourcing, Wetherspoon’s has been bolstering the vegetarian and vegan offerings on its menus. A spokesman said: “Sugar might be the first Fairtrade product, but obviously as we expand and refine our menus we will consider looking at more.”

In October last year, the chain added its first ever fake-meat burger to its staple range of patties. Following a successful six-month trial in 40 of its pubs, the group put plant-based burgers made by the UK startup The Meatless Farm on the menu of all 880 of its UK outlets. It also pushed to ensure that the Heinz “no added sugar” baked beans it serves were reformulated to be vegan, following a storm of protest from the vegan community.

Twenty years ago, the total Fairtrade market was worth £22m, whereas a recent report from the Co-op estimated the total retail Fairtrade market to be worth £1.6bn, with UK consumers spending almost £290m a year on Fairtrade bananas alone. However, the movement has suffered from companies such as Sainsbury’s and chocolate giant Mondelēz International, the owner of Cadbury, breaking away from Fairtrade and launching their own “ethical” alternatives. In 2018, Fairtrade tea sales slumped by 21%, largely due to the impact of Sainsbury’s trial of its Fairly Traded” tea line.

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