The UK’s Fairtrade wine market is set to grow by 20% in volume terms following an announcement by the Co-op that it is to convert more of its South African wines to the ethical standard.

The move, which is believed to be the biggest-ever Fairtrade wine deal in the UK, is expected to see an extra 2.5 million litres of Fairtrade wine being sold over the next year when all of the retailer’s entry-level South African wines are converted to Fairtrade from this month.

The Co-op said it has been collaborating closely with its supplier Lutzville Vineyards to convert the wines to Fairtrade Standards; the retailer said the move will benefit hundreds of vineyard workers in the remote town in South Africa by protecting their working rights and providing small farmers with a guaranteed minimum price for their grapes.

Speaking to DRN, Simon Cairns, Co-op’s head of BWS, said: “This is a real step change. We are already the biggest Fairtrade retailer of wine in the world and we do it because it is the right thing to do and it’s at a time when many vintages are really under pressure, so working closely with our Fairtrade suppliers is very important.”

Edward Robinson, Co-op’s Fairtrade wine buyer, 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.”

The Co-op first introduced Fairtrade South African wine in 2006 and sales of its existing range has helped a raft of community projects, benefitting thousands of people with services such as healthcare, childcare, education and drug awareness facilities.

Sarah Singer, wine supply chain manager at the Fairtrade Foundation, 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.”

In the past year Fairtrade alcohol sales in the off-trade grew by 30.7% to £94 million compared with a total increase of 7.2% for the total category (to £840 million), according to Kantar Worldpanel data (year to December 31, 2017).