Sugar industry set to follow cocoa’s lead on sustainability, says Fairtrade

Sugar farmers are poised to benefit from industry commitments on sugar, says Fairtrade.

Sugar sustainability commitments will soon match those made for cocoa, according to Fairtrade International.

Leading chocolate companies such as Mars, Hershey and Ferrero have already committed to 100% sustainable cocoa by 2020, but no major confectioner has made a similar sweeping pledge on sugar.

Sugar commitments foreseen

“We’re fairly convinced that before long the sugar industry will be making the same commitments to sustainability that we see now in cocoa,” Harriet Lamb, Fairtrade CEO, told ConfectioneryNews.

The certification organization said that recent changes to its sourcing policy made it easier for manufacturers to commit to Fairtrade sugar. The new rules allow companies to bulk buy a single commodity as Fairtrade, whereas before companies had to source all ingredients for a brand on Fairtrade terms.

1% of world sugar Fairtrade

Currently less than 1% of global sugar is sold on Fairtrade terms. Around 60% of all Fairtrade sugar sales come from bagged retail sugar and Lamb conceded that penetration for Fairtrade sugar among confectioners was small.

“If we’re honest it hasn’t been strong enough. We’ve been disappointed by the low take up,” she said.

“We are really keen to scale up the opportunities for sugar farmers. Maybe you are a biscuit or a sweet manufacturer who up until now hasn’t worked with Fairtrade because of the rule about the final product - here is a fantastic opportunity to source all your sugar on Fairtrade terms.”

British sugar

Although Fairtrade sugar accounts for only a tiny percentage of world sugar sales, in Britain, 60% of sugar sold in shops is Fairtrade, driven by a commitment from Tate & Lyle to source all sugar from Belize as Fairtrade. Lamb said that this showed Fairtrade sugar could work elsewhere in Europe.

“I think that’s particularly important with the upcoming changes to the European Common Agricultural Policy. The reforms pose a threat to many sugar farmers and therefore we really hope that companies who buy significant amounts of sugar will get on the phone to us.”

European sugar quotas are to be abolished in 2017, as part of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Fairtrade Sugar Program

Fairtrade’s new Sugar Program allows manufacturers to buy a percentage (e.g. 10%) of their total sugar volume as Fairtrade. Alternatively, companies can commit to certified sugar for a specific product range, such as chocolate or biscuits. 

Companies can only use the full Fairtrade mark when all ingredients for a brand that can be Fairtrade are Fairtrade, but businesses in the new program can use a Fairtrade Sugar Program mark to communicate their commitment if they so desire.

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