Tuesday 10 December 2019

Who's The Boss?

I've been purchasing fairtrade goods for well over 30 years now. In the early days we had a few disasters - one of Bob's fellow students became a rep in 1984, and we wanted to support her. For Christmas we gave everybody on our present list a Fairtrade mug, and a packet of teabags. The mugs were well received, but the tea tasted dire! She also had loorolls in her catalogue [and they were recycled paper] If you purchased in bulk, it worked out cheaper than anywhere else. I decided to buy a year's worth which meant we were paying half our usual price. Unexpectedly we had to move house suddenly. I think the removal men were very confused about our toilet habits, as they shifted all these boxes.
But fairtrade coffee, tea, bananas and more are common items on our shopping lists - and we are glad that workers in India, Africa, the Americas etc are all benefitting from better working conditions just because we are willing to pay a few extra pence for our groceries.
But this past week I have been reading about a fair trade scheme in France. Yes, France - not considered a third world country. What's that about?
Meet Nicolas Chabanne, a French entrepreneur. Four years ago, he was trying to persuade the supermarkets to sell wonky veg [not terribly successfully] and somebody said "Please look at milk sales" He did - and found a disaster - the big retail groups were driving down the prices mercilessly, dairy farmers losing money on every litre.
And a mere 8 cents a litre [6.8p] was the difference between a farmer going bust or making a living. The suicide rate among French dairy farmers is 30% higher than in the general population. Chabanne calculated that if the average French consumer spent just £4 more per year on their milk, the producers might survive. He was convinced people would be prepared to do that.
Since he launched C'est Qui Le Patron?! [Who's the boss?!] 3 years ago, French consumers have bought 123million litres of milk CQLP. It is now the fourth biggest milk brand in France, outsold only by the most cutprice supermarket own brands.

Furthermore, CQLP is run by a co-operative of 7500 members, paying just €1 to join. They now have more than 30 sustainable lines [including honey, sardines, flour, apple juice] and these have been produced to specifications decided democratically by the consumers.
Overall sales have exceeded targets 10 times over. Supermarkets assume that all consumers want competitively priced produce. CQLP is changing that. 
Chabanne says "A lot of consumers want to behave more responsibly...they want healthy, quality food, produced ethically and transparently...with respect for animal welfare and the environment by people who are paid a fair price. And thet're willing to pay a little more for that"
"CQLP is about consumers taking control. There will always be people, for all kinds of reasons, for whom price matters most- but there are more and more who feel slightly guilty and would like to do better" He pictures his archetypal target customer** as "a couple in their mid 30s, working parents with young kids, aware of the climate crisis, of eating healthily, of animal welfare, of plastics in packaging, of the plight of the farmer...but unable to afford full organic. CQLP is the answer"
Consumers can vote on the website for products. Other countries are taking up the idea- Wie is de baas? in Belgium, ¿Quien es el jefe? in Spain - and The Consumer Brand in the UK
Watch this space- it seems a like a great idea to me.
More info on CQLP here.
** his target customers sound like my children - but this grandma thinks it's a good idea too.


  1. I heard on the news, recently, that the current trend to go with plant-based milk is causing dairy farmers in America to find it hard to make a living producing regular milk!

  2. Thanks for the heads up on that one. I think farmers often get a poor deal and it's not looking likely to improve any time soon.

  3. Part of the reason we're buying from a local dairy and having milk delivered. It is more expensive but the quality of the milk, eggs and butter is excellent


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