Fairtrade design takes off

As fairtrade sales hit record levels in the UK, designers are suggesting that the desirability of fairtrade products does not have to be explicit or overplayed on packaging to work most effectively.

Pemberton & Whitefoord – the consultancy responsible for Tesco’s fairtrade brand – recently launched a range of Liberation fairtrade peanuts (DW 29 November 2007). P&W senior designer Lee Newham says the Liberation brand sought to move away from the direct and worthy approach to being ethical with its comedy peanut-people characters.

‘Liberation’s brand essence is more tongue-in-cheek than the usual trend depicting farmers,’ he explains.

Labels for fairtrade products Green & Black’s chocolate and Waitrose Blossom & Bloom flowers were produced by Pearlfisher. Consultancy creative partner Jonathan Ford says, ‘When it comes to spending, people want indulgent products and an ethical pat on the back at the same time.’ Green & Black’s does not exaggerate its fair – trade connections, he says, but focuses on being a strong brand with taste intensity.

In contrast, the rise of fairtrade products is being described more radically as ‘an ethical revolution’ in a report published by Datamonitor last week. Its analysts say that by 2012, they expect the UK market for fairtrade goods to exceed £800m, and designers in product, packaging and branding disciplines should expect to gain.

The evaluation covers 11 countries, and forecasts that within five years purchases in this sector will increase by 15.7 per cent globally. Consumers in Britain spend more per head on these than the rest of Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The UK market was worth £395m in 2007.

Suggesting that ethical consumerism will grow, the report says people shop for products that they feel akin to politically, ethically and aesthetically. Consumers admire The Body Shop brand because of the environmental, health and humanitarian campaigning by its founder Dame Anita Roddick, who believed in ‘trade not aid’.

Globally, beverages account for most fairtrade sales. The market is driven, says report author Nick Beevors, by growth in private labels in UK supermarkets, as well as in chains like Eat, which advertises its credentials on plaques outside its cafés.

Consumers choose brands they see making a difference, says the report, so designers should ‘make labels as clear as possible, because healthconscious shoppers are checking them carefully’, explains Beevors.

He says that the clarity of the blue-and-green Fairtrade mark, designed by Interbrand, makes it instantly recognisable and encour ages purchasers to choose products that use it.

As more businesses adopt ethically sound policies, designers could find going Green and promoting fairtrade is deemed to be New Age – it could work to their advantage financially.

Fairtrade table

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