Fair Trade Foods

What is Fair Trade

Fair trade is an incredible concept to help ensure countries and workers around the world are able to compete on a level economic playing field. Fair trade is a lot of things but, at its core, it’s a set of principles to fight against worker mistreatment and environmental damage. It’s not a government-enforced set of regulations but does have several third-party agencies to help spread awareness. Learning the core concepts of fair trade will help illustrate its potential to bring positive change to our world.

Principles of Fair Trade

The principles of fair trade are assessed and signed-off upon by several organizations such as Fair Trade USA. This group is responsible for the “Fair Trade Certified” insignia found on many consumer goods. Their guidelines extend into agricultural, manufacturing, wildlife, and even home goods markets. The guidelines set forth by Fair Trade USA are created with an expressed intent of avoiding predatory sourcing and manufacturing practices. These practices, often driving down prices at the expense of workers and local environments, include low wages, unsustainable harvesting practices, and exploitation of local resources. The Fair Trade USA website is pretty difficult to navigate and is layed out in very circuitous ways. Much of the information one might be interested in comes via downloadable PDFs. Below you’ll find an example of the guidelines that a Fair Trade Certification takes into account (taken from their Agricultural guidelines document.)

  • Worker Empowerment
  • Fundamental Rights of Workers
  • Working Conditions & Wages
  • Biodiversity & Sustainable Production
  • Supply Chain Transparency & Traceability
  • Internal Management System

Its important to keep in mind that these principles are just those expressed by a single agency and not specifically enforced, supported, or recommended by other agencies by default. Another well-known fairtrade agency is the World Fairtrade Organization (WFTO).Their definition of “fair trade” is as follows:

“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”

As you can see, this is a much broader definition which assume a lot of local context is added. It’s also expressive of the fundamental principles by which many other agencies develop, certify, and evolve fairtrade oversight to ensure better global equality and sustainability.

 

Certifying Agencies

Fair Trade USA isn’t the only agency dedicated towards their mission goals. Several other agencies around the world are forging similar such guidelines in an effort to provide greater market demand for products and services delivered via fair trade networks. As described by the Fair World Project, these are some of the many agencies taking a stand to ensure Fair Trade conditions for workers an economies around the world:

 Fair For Life

The Fairtrade System

Naturland Fair

Small Producers’ Symbol

In addition to these agencies, each of which are helping to establish fairtrade guidelines, there area several agencies which help certify compliance with fairtrade ideals. These are the agencies that help producers communicate their dedication to fairtrade practices to consumers.

Food Justice Certified

Fair Food Program

Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured

Fairtrade USA

Rainforest Alliance

There are also several membership organizations by which companies and manufacturers are able to exert their will into the global economy in such a way as to affect a shift towards fairtrade principles. These membership organizations help pool resources, conduct research, and report on market conditions to help create better guidelines and fairtrade operational principles.

Cooperative Coffees

Domestic Fair Trade Association

Fair Trade Federation

World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)

Making a Difference

The principles of fairtrade and the agencies dedicated to enacting them have made sweeping changes to marketplace conditions. Workers around the world are now being compensated more fairly, are being treated more humanely, and local ecosystems are footing the bill for consumers half-way around the world. At least not as much as usual. There aren’t any legal frameworks to enforce fairtrade principles, though some basic ideas are covered in most local legal systems. Still, even issues such as child labor, slave labor, and inhumane working conditions are found in the workplace. To help spread the ideas and principles of fairtrade, consumers should look for products with certification insignia indicating their certification through one of the agencies listed above (or a similar such agency.) Together we can make a difference but only if we all work together!

Clover Canyon

Best Natural Organic Brands

Organic products have hit the consumer market hard in the last decade. The demand for clean and responsibly-produced foods, clothes, cleaning products continues to blow market predictions out of the water. We’ve put together a list of many of the popular organic and “natural” brands on the market today and separated them by the ones that are actually living up to their “about us” page. Spoiler alert: many of your favorite organic brands are owned by companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and General Mills. Fortunately, there’s still some independent companies out there to offer clean products without any strings (or asterisks) attached.

Introduction

Organic products have taken the world by storm. Rather, we should say that non-organic products have began to lose the brief control of the world. After all, until the past century or so just about everything was organic (thanks industrial revolution!) We digress. Today, the term “organic” doesn’t always meant what we believe it should. The legal guidelines by which a product can be considered organic don’t always necessitate the avoidance of all non-organic materials during processing or sale. This means some organic products are more “organic” than others. To help everyone better understand which brands are dedicated to the production of pure and sustainable products we’ve created this resource. You’ll find two lists here; brands that are dedicated to being organic and brands that are dedicated to meeting the minimum requirements to label their products as organic to make more money.

Good Organic brands

 

The Best Brands (good guys)

Clif Bar

This is a family-owned brand that produces natural (not always organic) protein and snack bars. You might recognize them by their cliffhanger-esque packing which features a free-climber hanging precariously from a cliff (or is it a clif?) They are committed to sourcing their products through completely Non-GMO means and have 70% of their ingredients from organic sources. They’re not perfect, but they are dedicated to the cause. They won over our hearts when they comitted a massive $100,000 donation in support of defeating the infamous Prop 37 California GMO labeling law. Keep up the good fight guys!

Amy’s

Not to be confused with Annie’s, Amy’s has been cooking with Non-GMO ingredients since the late 1990’s long before it was cool to do so.  Amy’s offers a wide range of foods that encompass organic candy bars, vegan frozen dinners, and even canned foods (probably where you know them from.) Amy’s Kitchen foods are no available in many commercial stores including Harris Teeter, Earth Fare, and even Wal-Mart (don’t shop there please.) We love them and are sure you will to.

Nutiva

Nutiva is probably familar to anyone that loves hemp protein powder, hemp hearts, or hemp oils. They also have a popular line of coconut-based cooking and skincare products. This company is driven by educating youth, regenerative farming, zero waste, and offsetting their carbon footprints. Their products are extensively certified Non-GMO and USDA Organic. We love them, you should love them, and they help make the world a better place. They have a much-deserved spot on our list of best organic brands.

Nature’s Path

Nature’s Path is committed to remaining an independent company and pioneering a quality non even imagined by most consumer food companies. They’re the brand that Kashi wants to be. You’ve likely seen their granola bars, cereals, and waffles in a flurry of organic ingredient excitement. They’ve committed themselves to remaining and all-organic brand and have a strong focus on responsible and renewable forms of agriculture. They’re guaranteed to make any breakfast table a place of peaceful and harmonious organic bliss.

Dr. Bronner

This brand was pioneer by Dr. Emanuel Bronner and has become the go-to for natural oral care products ranging from mouthwashes, toothpastes, and soaps (for those with dirty mouths.) Just kidding—their products extend far beyond oral hygiene. The Dr. Bronner name has been synonymous with clean ingredients and Non-GMO mindsets since natural products were even a “thing.” If you’re looking to remineralize those pearly whites without the nasty fluoride then Dr. Bronner is your new favorite brand. The image on their homepage is enough to check them out.

Lundberg

Remember what it was like trying to find a clean rice product before Lundberg? Fortunately we don’t either! Lundberg is a family-owned independent company that specializes in organic and Non-GMO rice products, including rice cakes. You probably recognize them as coming in those really convenient re-sealable bags that have an transparent front (so you know you’re getting the good stuff!) The only time we recommend someone buy from another rice brand is when no store within driving distance carries Lungberg’s. For thsoe that don’t like rice so much, don’t fret! You can enjoy some of Lundberg’s new baked grain bites!

Organic Valley

Organic Valley is an independently-owned Co-Op that produces, among other things, a wide range of dairy products. You probably recognize them from the milk section where their cheerfully-colored cartons help consumers get the organic milk they crave. They also make butter, eggs, cottage cheese, and even whey protein powder! This company is dedicated to sustainability and humanely-treated animals. We love them so hard that our dinner table wouldn’t recognize life without their products.

Lakewood

Since the mid-1930’s, Lakewood has been making some of the most delicious and readily-available juices on the consumer market. You probably recognize them from whatever aisle your local grocer keeps the V8 juice. They have a wide range of juices and juice blends that are organic and Non-GMO. Their products can be found in most healthfood stores, many major grocery stores, and even in some restaurants (all the best ones!) They are committed to providing preservative-free, filler free, zero added-sugar juices that come in non-leeching glass bottles. If you drink juice you should be drinking Lakewood, period.

Bad Organic brands

The Worst Brands (bad guys)

These brands were once among the best consumer brands in the world. They were dedicated to sourcing, packaging, and distributing the finest organic (or super natural and Non-GMO) products on the market. Since their inception, all the companies on this list have fallen to larger corporate interest by companies such as General Mills, Kellogg, and even Coca-Cola. They will all argue their independence and autonomy of operation but we still don’t trust them. They took the payout from Big Food and will forever wear a tarnished crown in our eyes.

Annie’s Homegrown

This brand used to be one of our favorites. They had those delicious mac-n-cheese boxes crafted with nothing but natural and organic ingredients. Unfortunately, they sold to General Mills back in 2014 for a whopping $820 million dollars! We’re not sure what they’ve been up to since then but we’ve definitely quit buying their products.

Honest Tea

You’ve likely seen this brand on the shelves of Whole Foods. With perhaps one of the cleverest names we’ve run across this brand was destined for success. We’ve knocked back plenty of bottles full of this brands delicious tea but, after a massive 2008 investment by Coca-Cola, we pumped the brakes.

Applegate Farms

Applegate Farms were one of the first commercial brands to offer consumers a nitrite-free bacon alternative. There mission was focused on humane treatment of animals, clean production practices, and minimal preservatives added to their products. Unfortunately, they were purchased by Hormel for nearly $800 million and have since fallen from our good graces.

Naked

Naked fruit juices were perhaps the most delicious store-sought beverage of the early zeros. We used to lap these up after long nights out with friends, in those rushed weekday mornings, and as a convenience snack on the road. Their products weren’t ever sold as organic (at least not catalog-wide) but were renowned for including the purest ingredients possible. In 2006 PepsiCo picked this brand up for a cool $450 million and blew every ounce of consumer trust the brand had built as part of the deal.

Kashi

Kashi disrupted the cereal aisles of nearly every major grocery store as they began offering food-conscious consumers an organic option for breakfast. This company saw much of its rise to fame as a by-product of heavy investment from the Kellogg company in early 2000. Since that dreadful day Kashi has come under the gun for stretching the meaning of “natural” on their labels and GMO ingredients. Tisk tisk.

Food Should Taste Good

We don’t remember a chip that ever tasted as good as these. Sweet potato, Harvest Pumpkin, Spicy Tortilla; the list was endless. This brand, initially operating as “snack company” hit the shelves of many grocers that wanted to offer consumers a natural snack option. They weren’t Organic but they were non-GMO and free of all the BS found in most chip bags. Chalk this one up as another casualty of General Mills, having been purchased by the Big Food giant in late 2012.

Earthbound Farms

If you buy packaged organic produce from the grocery store chances are that you, at least on occasion, have eaten an Earthbound Farms product. This brand cornered much of the organic leafy greens market for some time and still has in many regions. They offer organic Spring Mix, Kale, and even Baby Spinach to tug at the heart strings of health-conscious consumers everywhere. In early 2014, WhiteWave Foods picked up Earthbound for a staggering $600 million. We haven’t written Earthbound off just yet but we’re keeping a close eye on their evolution under the eye of WhiteWave.

Coleman Natural

Not every grocery store sells Coleman chicken but you might recognize it by its signature green packaging. It simply screams “probably organic” from halfway across the meat section. While low on most people’s radars, Coleman is actually (or was) the largest producer of organic chicken in the continental United States. This title earned them the attention of Perdue which would later purchase this brand entirely. It’s a pity, but we trust Perdue about as much as we do Tyson. Ok, maybe a little more than that.

Keeping Perspective

All of the brands listed here have, at least, some concept of quality ingredients. The brands that have been scooped up by Big Food brands like Kellogg or Coca Cola get red-flagged by us but aren’t necessarily evil. We feel that big brands tend to fold distribution channels into those of there other brands for overall cost effectiveness and scale. We feel this creates a high risk situation for cross contamination with non-organic or GMO-containing products, at the very least. In all honesty, the incentive for these brands to slip in some non-organic ingredients to help save big is just too great. They can still keep the USDA Certified Organic insignia and  save money. There’s probably some brands that maintain their values but we’ll stick with the independent guys.