Sam's Club Offers a Sweet -- and Fair -- Deal for Coffee Lovers and Farmers

Sam's Club Offers a Sweet -- and Fair -- Deal for Coffee Lovers and Farmers

The list of responsibly sourced products entering the marketplace keeps growing with the news that Sam’s Club just added more Fair Trade items to its offerings.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company announced a partnership that will allow it to sell two types of Fair Trade Certified coffee under its private Member’s Mark label in more than 600 stores.

The development stems from the retailer's participation in the Responsible Sourcing Partnership, which aims to give farmers access to markets while improving environmental conditions on their land. The public-private partnership also includes TransFair USA, a third-party certifier, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Service of Support for the Micro and Small Companies of the State of Minas Gerais (SEBRAE-MG), a Brazilian nonprofit.

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"This partnership falls in line with the company's mission of providing opportunity in communities around the world, as nearly 30,000 Brazilian producer family members are being positively impacted," Jill Turner-Mitchael, Sam's Club senior vice president of merchandising, said in a prepared statement.

Fair Trade Certified coffee offers a premium price at $1.26 per pound. The premium is then invested in the co-op member’s communities for infrastructure projects and other improvements. Last year, Walmart's sales generated $1 million in premiums to coffee farmers around the world, said Katie Barrow, TransFair USA's communications director.

The partnership also provides technical assistance in production and harvesting methods, as well as marketing opportunities. "In Brazil, because of the partnership and grants, they have been able to transition more farms to become organic certified," Barrow said. "They all take it very seriously."

TransFair USA president and CEO Paul Rice hailed the partnership as a way to both expand the marketplace and deliver value back through the supply chain to the farmer.
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"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." Rice said in a prepared statement.

Fair Trade Certified coffee imports grew by 30 percent last year, according to the Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit.

Sam’s Club also sells Fair Trade Certified wine, dry fruit, and bananas in wholesale locations, in addition to certified flowers offered online.

It isn't alone: GreenBiz.com recently reported Cadbury now makes Dairy Milk bars with Fair Trade Certified cocoa in the United Kingdom and without palm oil in New Zealand. Nestle’s Nespresso is now made with Rainforest Aliiance Certified espresso, while Mars plans to use cocoa certified by UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.

Photo courtesy TransFair USA; coffee beans image courtesy Flickr user: nate steiner