All of Target Corp.’s private-label Archer Farms coffee bags and pods will be certified fair trade by 2022, as the Minneapolis-based retailer moves toward its sustainability goals.
The company has also started labeling cleaning products that are more environmentally friendly.
Target sells 6 million pounds of Archer Farms coffee each year. The retailer’s fair-trade commitment is considered a victory for that movement, which seeks to make sure producers are adequately compensated for their labor.
Currently, about 20 percent of Archer Farms coffee — Target’s flagship coffee brand — is fair-trade certified, the company and Fair Trade USA told Reuters last week.
“Our guests love our Archer Farms coffee assortment and as our business continues to grow. It’s important that we ensure it’s sustainable so we’re able to provide guests with high-quality, great-tasting coffee long into the future,” Target spokeswoman Angie Thompson said.
Archer Farms coffee sales at Target are growing four times faster compared to the category average, she said.
Target in 2016 was the first mass retailer to start concentrating on fair- and direct-trade options for coffee. The retailer said the fair-trade focus also improved the bean quality and thus the taste of Archer Farms options.
Coffee futures are currently trading near 13-year lows, weighed down by a record-large Brazilian crop.
Prices are below the cost of production in most countries forcing some farmers out of business and prompting concern from the industry on its long-term ability to source good coffee.
The U.S. imported about 3.5 billion pounds of coffee in the 2018-2019 season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of such products in North America, works to institute a floor price for farmers. For coffee, the minimum price is $1.40 per pound, and farmers receive an additional 20 cents per pound sold.
“The current market is nothing short of a disaster for coffee farmers,” Paul Rice, founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, told Reuters.
The most active coffee futures contract fell last week to 94.65 cents per pound, the lowest since 2005.
Farmers have been searching for ways to find pricing alternatives, including separate pricing mechanisms for high-grade specialty beans.
Target’s sustainability goals range from improving energy efficiency in stores to scoring products, and their packaging, on toxicity.
When Target in 2016 made a commitment to start increasing fair-trade coffee, it also redesigned Archer Farms single-serve pods. The pods have BPA-free translucent packaging and their sales benefit Waterwise, a clean-water nonprofit in Ethiopia.
In 2017, the retailer stepped up efforts to remove potentially harmful chemicals from products and push suppliers to disclose ingredients.
Target said it was committed to ensuring its textile products will be free of perfluorinated chemicals and flame retardants by 2022. Such chemicals can sometimes be found in products ranging from kids’ uniforms and tablecloths to sleeping bags and rugs.
In addition, the retailer pledged to remove six chemicals, including phthalates and formaldehyde, from beauty, baby care, personal-care and household-cleaning products by 2020.
Last week, Target said it would make it easier for customers to find some products formulated without the targeted chemicals. The retailer will now put a “Target Clean” label on them.
“Our guests are increasingly interested in better-for-you products, and by introducing Target Clean, we’re able to help them identify products that meet their needs and save time,” said Christina Hennington, Target’s general-merchandise manager for essentials and beauty.
The label will start appearing on Target.com in March and in the stores in April on products such as cleaners, personal and baby-care items and makeup. The chemicals differ by category, the company said.
Cleaning products with the Target Clean label, for example, will not have phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, propylparaben and butylparaben.
“It’s the latest step toward achieving our chemical goals, where we’re driving transparency, proactive chemical management and innovation across our assortment and business,” Target said on a company blog announcing the change. “Ultimately, we want to reduce the amount of unwanted chemicals in the homes and workplaces of our guests.
Already, Target has icons to identify products that are gluten-free, organic and nongenetically modified organisms.
Staff writer Catherine Roberts contributed to this report, which includes material from Reuters’ Ayenat Mersie.