According to market research firm Organic Monitor, UK retailer Marks & Spencer's recent launch of Fairtrade green beans from Kenya could kick-start the market for Fairtrade vegetables in Europe.
Sales of Fairtrade products in Europe have grown exponentially over the last five years, from €250m in 2004 to €920m last year.
The bulk of those sales are currently from Fairtrade fruits and drinks, above all bananas, but Organic Monitor believes that vegetables could now start to account for a larger share.
The researcher cites the fact that, according to its own research, vegetables already represent the majority of eco-labelled (including organic) fruit and vegetable sales in Europe.
UK retailer Sainsbury's is planning to launch Fairtrade green beans in the coming weeks, and Organic Monitor states that other leading UK retailers of Fairtrade foods, including Waitrose and the Co-op, are likely to follow suite.
These supermarkets also plan to introduce more certified Fairtrade vegetables, such as garden peas and other bean varieties, in the future, and Organic Monitor stresses that similar Fairtrade standards are required in other countries if the European Fairtrade vegetables market is to gain momentum.
"Countries such as Switzerland and Finland have higher consumption rates for Fairtrade products than the UK," Organic Monitor reports. "Other countries like Norway are reporting market growth rates in excess of 20 per cent a year. However, a handful of products represent most Fairtrade food sales in Europe. New standards for Fairtrade vegetables would enable fresh produce traders and retailers to expand their range of certified Fairtrade products. They would also enable these companies to have the supply necessary to keep pace with soaring consumer demand."
The potential of Fairtrade is due to be covered at length at the Sustainable Foods Summit, which takes place in Amsterdam on 10-11 June.