UK retailer Co-op has announced it will work to ensure more of its own-brand South African wines meet Fairtrade standards. This move is expected to increase the UK’s Fairtrade wine market by 20% or 2.5 million litres in the next year.

In what is claimed to be the UK’s largest Fairtrade wine deal, Co-op is collaborating with its South African supplier Lutzville Vineyards to convert its own-brand white, red and rosé wines to Fairtrade standards.

Fairtrade standards require workers to be paid a set minimum price that aims to cover production coasts and certified plantations must provide decent working conditions and protection rights in line with International Labour Organization Conventions.

The retailer claims this conversion will benefit hundreds of vineyard workers and the first stage of a related project will pay for two buses, which will improve access of workers and their families to healthcare and education.

Co-op Fairtrade wine buyer Edward Robinson said: “This really is an exciting new development for Fairtrade wine and will really make a big impact to those living in this remote part of South Africa. We are really pleased to be involved in setting up this new project from scratch and look forward to seeing the outcome over the next few years. Already we are seeing interest in Fairtrade from other farmers in the region who are seeing the potential which it offers.

“In light of the great results so far as part of the conversion, more smallholders who grow the grapes for the wines in South Africa, are also switching to become Fairtrade accredited after seeing the benefits.

“Demand for Fairtrade wine out of South Africa is particularly high at the moment – and at the root of it lie some wines which really do delight the customer, both in terms of taste and giving something back to those who made them.”

Fairtrade Foundation wine supply chain manager Sarah Singer said: “It is fantastic to see the Co-op switch more of their South African wines to Fairtrade. As a result wine producers and workers in South Africa will benefit from a better price as well as the additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in their business and communities.

“The Fairtrade wine market in the UK continues to grow year on year and the ongoing support of retailers like the Co-op is vital to continuing this growth.”

Co-op first introduced Fairtrade wine in 2006; according to the Fairtrade Foundation, it was the first supermarket to do so and it now offers the widest range.

Earlier in 2018, Co-op announced all its own-range tea, coffee and bananas would be produced from Fairtrade-accredited producers and thus will benefit them and their communities. This followed a move in 2017 to source all its cocoa from accredited Fairtrade farmers.

Kantar Worldpanel data shows that off-trade Fairtrade alcohol sales, which are dominated by wine, have increased by 30.7% to £94m in the past year, compared with 7.2% growth for the whole category to £840m. Fairtrade alcohol has experienced a 29% increase in volume, compared with 2.5% for the entire category.

Co-op says volume sales of its own-brand Fairtrade war has increased 9% in the past year and that its Fairtrade products have more consumer loyalty than other brands.

Robinson said: “Customer engagement is at an all-time high and we are seeing a strong and growing bond between our Fairtrade wine projects and our customer base.”