The fair trade sector in Germany is flourishing: the two big industry associations Forum Fairer Handel and TransFair have both announced double-digit growth for fairly traded and ethically manufactured products in 2015.

According to industry association Forum Fairer Handel, turnover of fair trade products grew 11% to a total of 1.14 billion Euro last year while per capita spending reached 14 Euro.

Around 79% of the entire turnover came from products carrying the Fairtrade seal. And 80% of these Fairtrade-certified products also carried an organic seal.

Just like in the past years, the German fair trade market was driven by the country's strong supermarket and discounter chains, who are increasingly expanding their line-up of fair trade food products such as bananas, coffee, chocolate or flowers.

The Weltläden (World Shops) distribution channel, on the other hand, only registered a slender turnover increase of 5% last year. Weltläden are small, independently run stores that sell fair trade and ethical products such as dried foods, coffee, chocolate, textiles, and accessories. In Germany, the Weltläden are organised in the Weltladen Dachverband association. Traditionally, Weltläden are one of the key retail channels for fair trade but with the rise of supermarket-retailed fair trade products, Weltläden have been losing market share.

Breaking it down

Some of the most detailed figures about the fair trade sector come from non-profit association TransFair. Founded in 1992, TransFair is the German member of Fairtrade International (FLO) which awards the Fairtrade seal to ethically traded and manufactured products and supply chains.

For 2015, TransFair Germany announced a turnover increase of 18% to 978 million Euro, with a per capita expenditure of 12 Euro. Fairly traded food product accounted for around 80% of this total. Around 72% of these fair trade food products are also certified organic.  And 92% of all fair trade turnover came from the four key product categories: bananas, coffee, cocoa and flowers.

According to the association, turnover of fair trade bananas grew 32% last year which means that 10% of all bananas sold in Germany are Fairtrade certified.

Coffee, the second largest product category, registered a 4% increase in 2015 (around 3% of the total German coffee market), followed by Fairtrade-certified cocoa which shot up 88% last year, reaching a 3.6% share of the German cocoa sector. And Fairtrade-certified flowers - especially roses - registered a 6% increase last year.

Smaller Fairtrade categories included cotton (an increase of +17%), honey (+54%), fruit juices (+37%), tea (+38%), wine (+97%) and cosmetics (+145%).

Trading fairly

Another key player is German fair trade association GEPA, the biggest European importer for fair trade and ethically manufactured foods and non-food products from the Global South (a socio-economic term which broadly encompasses Africa, Latin America, the developing South East Asian countries and parts of the Middle East).

GEPA was established in 1975; its products are distributed in Weltläden, supermarkets, discounters and organic stores, company canteens and public institutions and through its online store. The company was a founding member of the World Fair Trade Association (WFTO) in 1989, the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) in 1999 and the Forum Fairer Handel in 2002.

 GEPA's annual figures refer to the import of fairly traded products and highlight a different aspect of the German fair trade sector. In 2015, the association's wholesale turnover grew 3% to 69 million Euro. In retail prices (store prices) turnover of GEPA products amounted to 110 million Euro. The biggest product category last year was coffee with a 43% turnover share, followed by chocolate (21%), other foods (33%) and handicrafts (3%).