OAKLAND -- Coffee, tea or ... fair trade wine? TransFair USA, the Oakland-based group that has certified everything from coffee and tea to bananas and flowers as being ethically produced, now is putting its seal on wines from Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
The wines -- which are available nationwide this month at grocers and liquor stores nationwide, including Whole Foods Market and Sam's Club -- are a first for U.S. consumers.
"You're getting award-winning wine that has just fantastic quality that also has an incredibly uplifting effect on the lives of literally thousands of farmers and farmworkers," says Paul Rice, president and CEO of TransFair USA. "It's a great product that also represents tremendous hope and pride."
The fair trade movement has been established in Europe for decades -- fair trade wines have been available there for five years -- but is gaining momentum in the United States.
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Last year, sales of fair trade products, passed $1 billion for the first time, according to TransFair and the Fairtrade Labelling Organization.
A Fair Trade Certified product means TransFair has determined that farmers got fair prices, workers got decent wages and the product was produced in an environmentally responsible manner.
Importers and retailers pay a premium -- the wine premium is 10 cents per bottle -- that is earmarked for community improvement, such as a new water system or educational scholarships.
Charles Redfield, senior vice president of fresh food for Sam's Club, says fair trade products offer high quality and are popular with customers. Company buyers, meanwhile, see the benefits of the system firsthand.
"Once you go out and experience it as an individual, it changes your whole lens of sustainability."
New wines include:
Live-A-Little, from Stellar Organics in South Africa, at stores around the country, including Whole Foods Market, and Publix Super Markets, suggested retail $9.99.
Wandering Grape, from Argentina and South Africa, available at Target for about $11.99.
Neu Direction, from Argentina, available at Sam's Clubs for about $10.