Fair Trade USA, a third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States previously known as TransFair USA, released a number of announcements to coincide with Natural Products Expo East in Boston last month. Many of the announcements reflected the strong emphasis the beverage industry has placed on Fair Trade certification.

This year, Fair Trade has generated significant momentum despite the struggling economy. SPINS, Schaumburg, Ill., reports that sales of Fair Trade certified products at grocery stores grew by 30 percent to $140 million for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4, lead by growth in packaged coffee (up 44 percent) and ready-to-drink (RTD) tea and coffee (up 51 percent). Other contributors to growth include the refrigerated juices and functional beverages category swelling 98 percent, carbonated beverages growing 38 percent, shelf-stable functional beverages increasing 10 percent and teas gaining 4 percent in grocery stores during the time period, SPINS reports. Cocoa and hot chocolate was the only category to experience a decline, and the segment saw an 8 percent dip.

Last month, Honest Tea, Boston, announced that it is committed to expanding its Fair Trade certified offerings to include its entire tea portfolio. During the past three years, Honest Tea has expanded from seven to 19 Fair Trade varieties. With this new initiative, all 28 of its teas will transition to become Fair Trade certified starting next month. The company expects the transition to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

This year, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), Waterbury, Vt., also converted two of its most popular blends - Our Blend and Vermont Country Blend - to Fair Trade. GMCR offers one of the largest selections of certified Fair Trade and organic coffees in the country, it says. In its fiscal year 2009, the company purchased 16.2 million pounds of Fair Trade coffee that delivered more than $1.6 million in Fair Trade premiums for community development to coffee farmers, GMCR says. Last month, the company ran a number of promotions encouraging consumers to switch to Fair Trade coffee.

Twinings North America, Clifton, N.J., also now offers a new line of organic and Fair Trade certified teas, available in a variety of black, green and herbal teas. Tea Forté, Concord, Mass., launched Fair Trade and organic certified Minteas, which are available in functional varieties for relaxation, energy, staying well, focus and fitness. Choice Organic Teas, Seattle, also added four new Fair Trade certified teas to support the Jane Goodall Institute. Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, also added six RTD Fair Trade certified 365 Everyday Value teas to its private label offerings.

In 2009, consumer and industry purchases of Fair Trade certified goods generated more than $48 million in additional income and funding for education, health care, clean water and other vital social services to support the more than 1.2 million people in Fair Trade farming communities around the world, Fair Trade USA says. It’s nice to know that the beverage industry played such a big part in this.

On a different note, Jessica Jacobsen joins Beverage Industry this month as associate editor. Jessica brings to the magazine her experience as a reporter and website manager for newspapers in the Chicagoland area. If you would like to drop Jessica a note, you can reach her at jacobsenj@bnpmedia.com.