Cafédirect: Fairtrade Coffee Company

Cafédirect is the UK's largest Fairtrade coffee company. Its CEO, Penny Newman, just came second to the head of Marks & Spencer in a business award competition to celebrate "Great Britons". The judges said that she "proves that you can be ethical and run a successful business at the same time". This is a company that was set up by four charities just sixteen years ago. As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, the Guardian interviewed this dynamic businesswoman, who learned her skills at the Body Shop and has transformed the business-- now it has sales of £21.6M ($41.7M U.S.) a year. Growing awareness of global poverty and concern about where food comes from have helped make Fairtrade products popular, particularly in Britain. Since 2002, they have had a 265% growth rate here. Now that supermarkets are falling over each other to be ethical, she does have some concerns. She says: "Is it just a sexy, fashionable thing to do at the moment?...Retailers need to be there in the good and bad times". To counteract this problem, she has expanded its market into sales in university campuses, offices and coffee bars where she sees future growth to be faster than at-home sales. This month they will be shipping coffee to France, where there is a much smaller Fairtrade market and she wants to move into Hong Kong. As for the many small farmers growing coffee in Africa and Latin America, Newman is worried that the system will cease to be of benefit for them: "It all started from developmental need, how to help farmers in the face of falling coffee prices. Our concern is not to take that away". :: Cafedirect Via :: Guardian

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