The nuts are oven baked to liberate their full nutty flavour without adding any extra fat. They will first be sold at Oxfam shops, health food stores and online at www.ethicalsuperstore.com and will be available in supermarkets from early 2008.
The snack range is being launched by new 100% Fairtrade nut company Liberation Foods CIC (Community Interest Company). The company has been established by Twin Trading and Equal Exchange, with the support of Comic Relief and The Hunter Foundation.
One of the aspects of the company which makes it unique in the nut industry is that those traditionally seen as the weakest in the supply chain are joint owners. Small-holder nut farmers and gatherers from the developing world are the largest single stakeholder in the business with a 42% shareholding in the company, financed by charitable organisations Comic Relief, The Hunter Foundation and Twin.
The farmers are represented on the Board of Directors of Liberation Foods CIC, will have their voices heard at Annual Shareholders’ Meetings and receive a share of profits when a dividend is paid.
This involvement of those who actually grow the produce is seen as a way of connecting the producers to retailers, consumers and farmers from other continents, providing a unique opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other.
They will also receive the guaranteed fair deal which comes with the Fairtrade labelling system, plus the additional Fairtrade Premium to spend on social and community projects.
From early next year the product range will be available at major supermarket chains, with planned launches at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose in January. The company is in discussion with Tesco and other multiples and hopes for similar deals with them in 2008.There are also plans to extend the company’s branded offerings in 2008 to other nut based products.
Duncan White, head of the nuts team at Twin Trading, one of the organisations behind Fairtrade hot drinks firm Cafédirect, its sister companies Divine Chocolate and Fairtrade fruit pioneers AgroFair UK, says: “We are proving that this alternative model is commercially sustainable and successful. Our aim is to show that there is a way of doing business which benefits all those in the supply chain and gives all those along that chain a say in decision-making as well. This inclusion and stakeholding in the business puts the small-holder farmers in a central and key position, unlike any other business in the nut industry.
“Twin Trading and Equal Exchange have reached sales of £1million from a standing start as we have been working in partnership, supplying Fairtrade nuts to supermarkets in the UK and nine other European countries over the past year for their own-brand products. Launching our own brand is the next step in bringing our offer and message directly to UK consumers.”
Andy Good, Managing Director of Equal Exchange, says: “With nearly thirty years experience of putting small farmers and producers first within our fair trade business model at Equal Exchange, launching Liberation will finally prove that with the right business ethos the nut market doesn’t have to be a tough one to crack for small-scale farmers. From small beginnings when we helped launched it in 1991, Cafédirect has grown to become the sixth largest coffee brand in the UK, proving the appeal and sustainability of alternative trade models in today’s market. With the strong interest we have already seen, Liberation certainly has the potential to echo this success.”
Tomy Mathews, a Director of Liberation who represents cashew nut farmers Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) in India, adds: “Owning this new company is tremendously encouraging and motivating for our farmers. The farmers tell each other: ‘We are selling to ourselves! We cannot ever compromise on quality.’”
The structure of a Community Interest Company was decided upon by Liberation Foods because of the clarity implicit in the structure of the company’s purpose – that it exists to serve a community of interest which in this case is marginalised nut producers in the developing world – currently Malawi, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, El Salvador and India. Liberation will share profits with more than 22,000 small-scale nut farmers and gatherers.