Nestlé’s long been a by-word for corporate exploitation of the developing world, primarily by turning a blind eye to the mis-selling of its baby milk, but also by squeezing coffee farmers ever so hard. So I’m surprised that talk of a fair trade Nescafé has failed to generate much comment (my Google news alert’s come up blank).
When being positive, the Fairtrade Foundation reports that the British drink 1.7m cups of Fairtrade tea, coffee and cocoa each day. When being realistic it reports Farirtrade coffee is just three per cent of its market, against Nescafé’s 50 per cent share. So Nestlé need only convert a modest proportion of regular Nescafé drinkers to expand the market beyond the Foundation’s best efforts so far. And where Nestlé lead, other majors will follow.
It’ll be interesting to see if Nestlé go the whole way and apply to the Fairtrade Foundation for accreditation as other coffee manufacturers have or apply its own standards in a move that will leave it open to further criticism. It won’t be easy. Nestlé may have to justify paying one farmer fairly, while holding another to today’s terms against a background of admitting – by implication at least – that today’s terms aren’t fair.
Whatever way it happens, it’ll provoke mixed reactions among current fair traders. In the 1980s the Body Shop led the way on animal friendly cosmetics, only to see the business flounder when the big boys moved in (although things are now back on the up). When the big boys get a conscience, it’s often the courageous independents that proved the market’s viability that lose most.
Naïve Marketing Strategies