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FAIR: Supporting the Spirits of Rural Communities

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As sustainable practice continues to be a key focus within most venues, it might be time to take a step back and question where the spirits you use really come from. True sustainability extends outside your individual venue. It means supporting rural communities globally, paying fairly for good product and affording workers safe working conditions.

One brand that is dedicated to this cause is FAIR. Spirits, the world’s first Fairtrade Certified spirits brand. Global Brand Ambassador Paul Bungener was in Australia recently for the brand’s first FAIR. Spirits Week, so we took the opportunity to speak with him about what it means to be ‘fair trade’, how it can change the lives of communities and what’s stopping other brands from joining the movement.

DRINKS WORLD: FAIR. is the world’s first and unique Fairtrade Certified spirits brand. What does that mean in terms of how you source your ingredients?

PAUL BUNGENER: Our company believes in treating all people fairly. Our vision has taken us all over the world to source the best ingredients for our high quality spirits. We believe that all the people involved, in every stage of the process, should be treated equally. Through the Fairtrade movement we are creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers and also ensuring we do not fund child labour nor forced labour.

DW: What do indigenous and local farmers gain from their relationship with FAIR.?

PB: The Fairtrade organisation has rigorous standards for farming practices, which ensures our quinoa and other ingredients are all of an exceptional quality. We respect about 200 rules to make sure that we pay the farmers at a fair price. It enables them to cover their production costs, live from farming, educate their children and build schools.  Take coffee for instance. Fairtrade was started in response to the struggles of Mexican coffee farmers following the collapse of world coffee prices in the late 1980s. With Fairtrade, certified coffee producer organisations are guaranteed to receive at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their coffee, which aims to cover their costs of production and act as a safety net when market prices fall below a sustainable level.

DW: What percentage of sales goes directly to these third-world farmers?

PB: We offer a Fairtrade premium price to the co-ops (an extra 15% from the market price) and also give 2.5% of our revenues back to the Fairtrade Foundation.

DW: Have you seen any changes in the lives of these farmers as a result of your partnerships?

PB: Yes, definitely. The amount of people working on the land has increased, which means more family benefit from the fair premium, such as the project to support women empowerment in Uzbekistan that has been put in place to give them real job opportunities. To give some context, more than 1.65 million people –  farmers and workers – are part of Fairtrade Certified producer organisations. On average, plantation farmers spent 26% of their Fairtrade premium on education, giving the power to the next generation.

We just ran our first fundraising campaign in London during Fairtrade Fortnight 2018, working with over 40 bars to give £1 per cocktail sold to the Fairtrade Foundation. We are planning something even bigger for next year. People need our support, and things must change. It’s time to get involved and make a difference.

DW: Why do you believe Fairtrade sourcing of ingredients has, thus far, not been common practice amongst spirits producers?

PB: Brands, thus far, have spent their time focused on having the fanciest bottles, the coolest celebrities, the best advertising spots etc. You can’t do it all and, at some point, you have to look at your priorities. Most decide to follow trends and be “cool”, we decided to make a difference. The world is changing though, we can see customers turning their backs on those kind of brands, trying to understand more about what they are buying, where ingredients come from, what it is made of etc.

DW: Do you have confidence that Fairtrade sourcing will become a more common practice in the spirits industry in the future? How do you think this can be achieved?  

PB: I, unfortunately, doubt it. I wish we could have some competition out there, but I don’t think brands are ready to commit. That being said, we see more and more brands trying to support causes. That’s a start and definitely better than nothing.

DW: What countries do FAIR. Spirits source their ingredients from and what spirits are currently produced?

PB: We have extended the range quite a lot lately, so we now have:

FAIR. Vodka: Made with quinoa from Bolivia
FAIR. Gin: Made from botanicals from Uzbekistan
FAIR. Rum: Made with sugar cane from Belize
FAIR. Cafe: Made with coffee beans from Mexico
FAIR. Goji and Pomegranate: Made with fruits from Uzbekistan
FAIR. Kumquat: Made from Moroccan kumquat
FAIR. Cacao: Made from cocoa nibs from Peru

We also use Fairtrade sugar cane juice from Malawi and Paraguay for our liqueur.  

DW: Are their plans to expand the brand through sourcing from more third world countries or releasing new products?

PB: Every time we launch a new product we say it will be the last one but you know how it is, the world is big and has plenty of unknown and interesting ingredients to offer. We also like challenges and get excited by new projects, so you never know. We actually have a a new rum coming out soon, but I can’t tell you too much about it yet.

DW: What are your plans for your time in Australia?

PB: Noble spirits has been distributing the FAIR. brand in Australia for a few years now. We are very thankful to see how much commitment they have put behind building the brand and my visit is one way to thank them.

We are also using this tour to promote our brand and story, trying to make sure the trade first and then consumers know what FAIR. stands for.

We are also very proud to announce our first trade cocktail competition! One winner from Australia will be sent to Bolivia with other lucky winners from Germany, Hong Kong and England to witness the harvest of quinoa in 2019.

DW: How can Australian bartenders support FAIR.? Where can they purchase your products?

PB: Well first by stocking our products in their bar, but more than that, by sharing our story with consumers. I often hear that brands and their ambassadors are the storytellers, but I think bartenders are as important in this process. They are the ones that can decide if a product is being served or not, and can help you build your brand awareness.

Also they can go online and make a donation. You must remember every time you buy a Fairtrade product (not just FAIR.) you are contributing to changing people lives.

You can buy the FAIR. products directly from Noble Spirits or wholesalers such as Gateway, Paramount Liquor, Global Liquor Brands (ex Novo), CLB, Liquid Speciality Beverages, Liquid Mix, Polkadot and ALM in most states.