Total commitment to fair juice

When walking around an Emmi site for the first time, people are often surprised to find orange juice or iced tea among the yoghurts and milk drinks. Actually this is not as unusual as it might at first seem, since these drinks have the same production and logistics requirements as the dairy products. One product added to the juice range in recent weeks has something special about it: Coop's Betty Bossi brand of freshly-squeezed orange juice is now made from fair trade-certified oranges, making it one of the first of its kind.

Every Emmi employee is familiar with Elvis - the iced tea rather than the King of rock'n'roll. Elvis is a non-dairy drink that Emmi has been producing for customers for many years. This makes sense, because juices and teas can be bottled in the same facilities as dairy products, and can also be connected to the cold chain if necessary.

In order to be able to provide Coop with fairly traded oranges for its Betty Bossi freshly-squeezed orange juice, however, Emmi has had to go beyond its usual production and logistics expertise.

Stock market speculation affects prices

Alongside wheat and soya, orange juice is one of the most frequently traded agricultural commodities in the world. Although oranges are grown in many countries, 90% of the orange juice traded around the world comes from Brazil and the United States. Orange trading is often highly frenzied and involves extreme price fluctuations which are usually passed on to the orange growers and pickers. The market is dominated by a small number of companies. Under these conditions, fair trading is difficult, and it cannot even be taken for granted that the producers can make a living from selling their goods. The fair trade movement's main concern is with ensuring fair prices and a stable income for small farmers and plantation workers in developing countries, but it is also about environmental protection, focussing especially on the direct effects of cultivation. Other labels prioritise the ecological footprint of a product, including packaging and logistics.

Coop: targeting 100% fair trade

The retailer Coop has set itself the target of ensuring that, by 2017, all raw materials from developing countries that are used in its own-brand products are sourced from fair trade label Max Havelaar. The portfolio of products made by Emmi for Coop also includes raw materials from these regions, such as oranges from Brazil. "We have various projects under way to assist Coop in meeting their sustainability objectives," says Emka Husak, a Retail Key Account Manager at Emmi.

Producing fairly traded orange juice would not have been a particular challenge for Emmi as our long-term supplier would have obtained this from one of the big orange traders. The problem is that fair trade-certified orange juice is normally only available as frozen concentrate. However, the best tasting fruit juice is not made from concentrate. The reason for this is that it is exposed to much lower heat input during the manufacturing process than juice from concentrate. But according to Amir Maslic, marketing representative for this project, this is not entirely true: "We regularly received juice samples for tasting, but none of them even began to meet our taste requirements." So Emmi had no choice but to approach the orange juice producers directly.

Taking a closer look

Emmi started its search in Brazil, where the orange varieties best suited to not-from-concentrate juice are grown and can ripen in ideal conditions. After all, the taste of an orange depends on the concentration of 25 different flavours, ranging from butyric acid to vanillin. Emmi found what it was looking for at a specialist fair-trade citrus fruit dealer who works with small-scale farming associations in Brazil. Contact was made with a cooperative in the state of São Paulo, comprising around 60 small family farms. The objective of this cooperative is to guarantee that the citrus fruit producers and pickers in the "Orange Belt" of São Paulo get a living wage. The fair trade premium is pooled and channelled into social development programmes and environmental protection.

Fair trade organisations such as Max Havelaar are concerned with ensuring that the profits from these products are distributed fairly along the value chain. Although quality is not the top priority for them, it is for Emmi. For this reason, buyer Stefanie Plangger and OSU head Jörg Sommer travelled to Brazil to inspect the entire supply chain (plantation, processing and logistics).

Emmi then produced a detailed supplier audit, evaluating the cooperative, the orange juice producers and the traders in respect of quality, environmental protection, security measures and logistics. The gratifying conclusion was that it would be possible to produce a high-quality, fresh fair trade orange juice with these partners. As a result, fair trade-certified Coop Betty Bossi blond orange juice has been available from Coop since November.

From a sustainability perspective, this juice offers another advantage. It is manufactured in Brazil, so firstly it is more environmentally friendly because the oranges need not be transported to Europe, and secondly a significant part of the added value remains in the country of origin.