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UK sees strong rise in Fairtrade wine sales

More wine drinkers in the UK are looking for the Fairtrade symbol on bottles, show new figures released this week.

Sales of Fairtrade certified wine rose by 15% in 2013 for the second consecutive year, to a retail value of £27.5m, according to the country’s Fairtrade Foundation. Sales have nearly tripled since 2008.

Volume sales rose more quickly in 2013, by 24% to almost 11m litres, or the eqiuvalent of 13.7m bottles.

Taken together, the figures suggest drinkers spent less per bottle on Fairtrade wine last year than in 2012. But, strong growth in both volume and value contrasts starkly with an overall UK wine market that is struggling for momentum.

‘Our Pinot Grigio (sourced from La Riojana, Argentina), Malbec and Rosé are proving especially popular,’ said a spokesperson for The Co-operative retailer, which claims to account for half of all Fairtrade wine sales in the UK.

The Co-op also constitutes 28% of Fairtrade wine sales globally, a figure that indicates the importance of the UK market to Fairtrade producers, who are predominantly drawn from South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

Richard Anstead, head of product development at the Fairtrade Foundation, praised The Co-op and Marks & Spencer for driving wine sales, but added, ‘it would be great to see more retailers and brands getting involved’.

He told decanter.com that ‘there is an opportunity to be the first iconic mainstream wine brand to make that first move [into Fairtrade]’. The Foundation is in discussion with some wine brands about Fairtrade certification, although it is not known which ones.

Some have questioned the quality of the wine available under the Fairtrade banner.

Decanter contributing editor Fiona Beckett said in her regular blog for The Guardian last weekend that she ‘really struggled’ to find Fairtrade wines to recommend and suggested readers might be better buying a non-Fairtrade wine and donating some money to Oxfam.

Anstead argued that overall quality has improved and that higher sales show drinkers want to buy into the values of the Fairtrade movement.

Written by Chris Mercer

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