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Oxfam America Rates Supermarket Fair Trade Product Providers

BOSTON - International development agency Oxfam America, which yesterday launched Check Out Fair Trade, the second phase of its campaign to get more retailers to offer Fair Trade products, has issued its Supermarket Report Card on grocers offering such items, and Wild Oats and Ahold have earned top grades.

During September, Oxfam America surveyed six national supermarket chains to assess their Fair Trade product offerings. Both Wild Oats and Ahold provide shoppers with a range of Fair Trade Certified coffee, and Wild Oats additionally carries Fair Trade Certified tea, chocolate, and fruit. Oxfam America noted, "Wild Oats leads the supermarket industry in its commitment to Fair Trade." The organization approved of Ahold's incorporation of Fair Trade "into their own line and other brands on their shelves," but advised the retailer to that it was now "time to increase promotion and sales." To see the entire report card, visit Oxfam America is planning a second survey of the same supermarket chains early next year to find out which ones have best responded to consumer demand.

The launch of the Oxfam America Fair Trade campaign's second phase comes in the wake of the United States' stated intention to rejoin the International Coffee Organization and Procter & Gamble's announcement that it will introduce a line of Fair Trade Certified coffee this autumn, developments Oxfam America claimed as successes resulting from the first phase of its initiative.

Fair Trade-Certified coffee continues to catch on with consumers. In 2003 alone, it experienced 91 percent market growth. "Savvy grocers will see that carrying Fair Trade-Certified coffee is a smart business decision," said Seth Petchers, coffee program coordinator for Oxfam America, in a statement. "Providing their customers with a choice -- a range of Fair Trade-Certified items offered on the same shelves as competing products, not relegated to the 'specialty corner' -- is crucial when customers are voting with their wallets.

"In order to catch up with this trend, mainstream supermarkets must go a step beyond carrying Fair Trade-Certified products; they should promote them to their customers," Petchers added. "We're looking for supermarkets to take Fair Trade to the next level."

Yesterday Check Out Fair Trade campaigners started grading their local supermarkets on their commitment to Fair Trade-Certified products -- whether or not they carry them, where the products are placed, and how much promotion and consumer education is done for Fair Trade.

Campaign activities will culminate on Nov. 20, a Day of Action on which activists will visit supermarkets across the United States, urging customers to buy Fair Trade-Certified products. Information gathered by campaigners will bolster Oxfam's research on leading national supermarket chains and help track supermarket response to Check Out Fair Trade.
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