Sales of coffee certified to organic, Fair Trade and Bird Friendly shade-grown standards continued to increase substantially over the last two years. This is the direct result of consumers continuing to vote with their pocketbooks in favor of companies providing high quality coffee that is also certified to standards that protect workers and the environment. But, the sales could not increase if it weren’t for the coffee importers and retailers across the country that have incorporated increasing amounts of the certified coffee into their product lines.
Indeed, imports of Fair Trade Certified™ organic (FTO) coffee grew 14 percent in 2011 to just over 72 million pounds, representing 52 percent of all Fair Trade coffee imported into the U.S. with an estimated market value of $700 million, according to the latest data from Fair Trade USA. The annual average increase for Fair Trade organic coffee imports was 11.5% from 2008-2011. The total estimated retail sales value is based on both out-of-home sales (cafes, coffee shops, restaurants) and retail sales at mainstream and specialty grocery stores.
“The demand for Fair Trade Certified organic coffee from both consumers and industry has made 2012 an exciting year for the communities we support,” said Jennifer Gallegos, Director of Coffee at Fair Trade USA. “We expect this momentum to continue in 2013, helping farmers earn funding for much-needed social, environmental and quality improvement programs that will uplift the coffee industry as a whole.”
In addition, sales of the stringent Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Bird Friendly® standard, considered by many to be the ‘gold-standard’ for shade-grown coffee production, reached $5.3 million in 2011. Bird Friendly®-certified coffee enjoyed a 29% average annual increase in sales in the global market from 2008-2011, according to Dr. Robert Rice, coordinator of the Bird Friendly program.
The North American organic coffee market topped 1.4 billion dollars in 2009, the most recent data available, according to leading market analyst Daniele Giovannucci. But it’s not only organic coffee sales that are increasing—the U.S. organic industry grew by 9.5 percent overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales. Of this, the organic food and beverage sector, including organic coffee, was valued at $29.22 billion (the organic non-food sector accounted for $2.2 billion), according to findings from the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) 2012 Organic Industry Survey.
One of the most recent indications of coffee retail change-of-course is the commitment of Bolla Market, a chain of New York City-area high-end convenience stores, to switch to offering only top-quality, specialty coffee certified to organic, Fair Trade, and Bird Friendly® shade grown standards for all its coffee offerings at its 21 locations ranging from Brooklyn to Riverhead on Long Island as well as in Staten Island, New York. Similarly, Pennsylvania-based Golden Valley Farm Coffee Roasters has found convenience stores increasingly interested in offering high quality coffee certified to the standards, although the chains they supply often choose not to advertise the certifications and let the increased coffee sales speak for themselves.
Sandra Marquardt is the president of On the Mark Public Relations and the coffee spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). She formerly coordinated the Organic Coffee Collaboration – a project of the OTA.