How Walmart Is Expanding the Reach of Fair Trade Coffee

In 2008, Walmart launched its own Sam’s Choice coffee label,  which included fair trade certified coffee. Walmart’s website claims that its Sam’s Choice Fair Trade Certified Coffee “guarantees fair prices, direct trade, environmental sustainability, and community development for family farmers.” The CBS’ website, lists coffee as one of the five items to purchase at Walmart. The article points out that this year Walmart began to offer coffee fair-trade certified by TransFair USA in its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. According to the article, the coffee is “sustainably grown by farmers who receive a living wage.”

An April post by declared, “When the big boys like Walmart or Starbucks make a move, it has impact.” In other words, by selling fair trade certified coffee, Walmart “vastly expands the market for such goods,” as the article stated.Carmen K. Iezzi, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation, said, “When any major corporation begins to move in the direction of more sustainable practices, that is a positive sign.”

The sale of fair trade products in 2008 totaled $1.1 billion in the U.S., up from less than $100 million in 1996, the year TransFair USA began. In 2008, U.S. sales of fair trade products grew by 10 percent. Michael E. Conroy, a senior Fair Trade organizer, said more retail stores want to offer fair trade products. “The entire spectrum of retail stores…are charging ahead to try to offer fair trade products. Both Whole Foods and Walmart are pressuring TransFair USA to expand the range of products with Fair Trade certification,” Conroy said.

TransFair USA’s website touts the benefits of fair trade certified products expanding into retail outlets:

The expansion of Fair Trade Certified products into thousands of retail outlets across the U.S. means TransFair USA is extending the benefits of Fair Trade to a growing number of farming families around the world. And giving Americans the opportunity to purchase Fair Trade products wherever they choose to shop makes it possible for a broader range of consumers to be part of the Fair Trade solution. That’s why TransFair is working to make Fair Trade Certified products available everywhere; at large retailers and national chains as well as small independent stores and cooperatives.

Paul Rice, TransFair USA president and CEO, said, “Sam’s Club is an innovative partner in offering high-quality Fair Trade Certified coffee in a manner that both expands the marketplace and delivers value back down the supply chain to the farmer. A year from now we will be able to trace Member’s Mark coffee sales directly to improved environmental management at Fair Trade coffee farms and higher quality of life in farming communities.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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