In a market that showed year-on-year growth of 47 per cent, the signs are evident that opportunities exist for confectioners to win gains through fairtrade confectionery products, but the limited roll-out of such targeted products in the past year shows confectioners are still proving reticent.
Data from global fairtrade certification body Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) shows consumers, worldwide, spent over €2.3 billion on fairtrade certified products last year.
While this figure pales into the background compared to the estimated retail sales of €2.8 trillion clocked-up annually by shoppers worldwide, the spending on ethically sourced products still represents a 47 per cent leap on the previous year.
But, according to data from market trackers Mintel, 114 fairtrade confectionery products were launched in Europe over the last 12 months, and 44 in North America. A number that has moved up just a notch from the same period between 2006 and 2007, that witnessed 108 launches for Europe, and 26 for North America.
A closer look at the launches reveals that chocolate is the favoured product for fairtrade certification by confectioners. Perhaps, not surprising, in that producers of ethically sourced cocoa beans, the prime raw material for such products, are gradually gaining certification across the globe.
"We're currently working with 34 producer associations, largely co-operatives" a spokesperson for FLO told ConfectioneryNews.com. The certification body counts producers in Belize, Bolivia, Ecuador and Ivory Coast among its associations, with the largest group in Ghana, where one association represents about 40,000 members.
But, while progress in certification has been exponential in recent years on the back of growing consumer awareness of ethically sourced cocoa, and consequently blossoming consumer demand, in Ghana alone - that contributes 19 per cent of cocoa to the world market - only around 3 per cent of the cocoa is on fairtrade terms.
"A very, very small percentage of the global cocoa market is fairtrade," added the FLO spokesperson.
"Fairtrade is a question of education and resources. It takes time to go mainstream."
The UK and The Netherlands are apparently two of the biggest markets for these ethical products, but labelling initiatives - members of FLO - the world over are active in approaching the food industry, lobbying, educating the public, and marketing the label at a national level.
Some food companies have approached the labelling initiatives, says FLO, and signed licensing agreements to use the certificate and logo on their products. About 40 per cent of funding for FLO, a non-profit organisation, hails from these licenses, with the remaining majority of funds made up by donors.
And in terms of recent launches, UK confectioner Divine that delivers fairtrade with a decidedly luxurious twist last month launched 'Divine Dark, Milk & White Chocolates' with a new packaging. The box contains 18 hand-finished chocolates including pralines, caramels, hazelnut, mocha and fruit flavours.
According to the firm, the fairtrade certified chocolates are flavoured using only natural ingredients. The chocolate is packaged in a 225g black box adorned with gold West African Adrinkra symbols.
Elsewhere, in France chocolate firm Ed rolled out its 'Commerce Equitable fairtrade chocolate' earlier this month. The product carries an AB organic produce certificate in addition to an Ecocert fairtrade guarantee. The chocolate, made from Ecuador cocoa, is produced by the Unocace cooperative.
"The product is described as having a floral fragrance, with high quality cocoa to provide a uniquely fine and perfumed chocolate," writes Mintel. Other ingredients in the product are organic sugar and vanilla extract, plus sunflower lecithin emulsifier.
Again, launched onto the French market, confectioner Rapunzel Naturkost has rolled-out the 'Rapunzel Chocolat au Lait', a milk chocolate table made from pure cocoa butter. Further ingredients in the bar include whole cane sugar rapadura, brown cane crystalline sugar, powdered whole milk (24 per cent), cocoa paste, emulsifier: soya lecithin, and bourbon vanilla.
And in the US, Kopali Organics turned to health-busting fruit with its May launch of 'Kopali Organics dark chocolate covered mulberries'. Certified USDA organic and fairtrade, the product boasts "antioxidants, vitamin C and bioflavonoids, and is free from preservatives and trans fats."
The 2 oz pack aims to highlight the benefits of fair trade and organic foods, and also available from the firm are: cacao 'nibs'; espresso beans; goji berries; and bananas.
The fruit theme continues with Endangered Species Chocolate, that in March launched its milk chocolate with cherries product.
"This 100 per cent ethically traded product" contains a massive 88 per cent cocoa. According to the firm, 10 per cent of the profits from the product will be donated "to help support species, habitat and human."