A Gift with a Story That Keeps on Giving

By: Co+op
Emiliano Palacin Melendrez, cacao producer from the Producer Association of Sonomoro Naylamp (APANS) in Peru... Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange.

Maybe this is the year your best friend went all KonMari and is aggressively decluttering, or you drew the mysterious office introvert in your company’s gift exchange, or you’re stumped about what to get the millennial in your life. Everyone struggles with finding the perfect gift from time to time but your food co-op can help!

While most people appreciate a food gift, everyone enjoys a good story. When you buy fair trade certified products, you get both! Great food that has an inspiring story you can share with the lucky recipient.

Why are fair trade stories inspiring? Because fair trade empowers people to improve their lives in ways that are meaningful and long-lasting, especially in circumstances where opportunity is scarce. Fair trade standards go beyond ensuring farmers get a fair and consistent price for their crops and safe working conditions. A percentage of a fair trade certified product’s sales also go into a shared account that farmers collectively decide how to spend, often funding community development projects like building schools or clinics in their communities.

Food co-ops are proud to carry a great selection of fair trade products with inspiring stories from around the world—here are a few suggestions for products with stories that will resonate with different people on your list.

Animal lover

Fair trade palm oil producers are growing sustainable tropical rainforests to replace those destroyed by industrial palm oil farming, preserving habitats for endangered animal species like the Sumatran orangutan, elephant, rhino and tiger. You can give a gift of fair trade palm oil for cooking at home (it’s tasty!) or look for soaps, lotions, lip balms and chocolates that use it as an ingredient.

Caregiver or teacher

Parents, teachers, anyone working with children on a regular basis is likely to appreciate fair trade chocolate truffles, candy bars and cocoa because they are among the only chocolate producers who can guarantee chocolate that has been produced without unpaid child labor. Fair trade protects human rights and helps kids stay in school.

Doctor, nurse, healthcare

In some parts of the world, lack of access to healthcare is the leading cause of mortality. This is why building clinics and hospitals is a common desire for fair trade farmers. Give a gift of fair trade olive oil and red wine (where available) for a heart-healthy choice that also helps this Argentina cooperative build a clinic.


Fair trade is a self-help mechanism, not a handout. Fair trade puts protections in place to make sure that hard work is rewarded so farmers are able to improve their lives and communities. Fair trade coffee is a great choice for people who appreciate hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit—coffee is a labor intensive crop and primarily produced by small family farmers.

Environmentalist, nature lover

For a great story about environmental impact, you can’t go wrong with fair trade yerba mate from South America. The leading fair trade brand of yerba mate uses regenerative agriculture methods that offset more than 100% of the carbon it takes to produce, ship and distribute the beverage worldwide. It’s also nutritious, stimulating and tasty.

Gender equality activists

Many fair trade products are made by female worker co-ops that empower women with financial independence and options in life. In addition, some companies use their profits in ways that benefit women and girls in their communities. Look specifically for lotions, soaps and haircare products for men and women made with fair trade shea and cocoa butters.

Homemade, do-it-yourself types

Giving homemade baked goods is always welcome and it’s easy to incorporate fair trade certified products into your recipes and share the story. Look for baking staples like fair trade sugar, chocolate chips, shortening, cinnamon and vanilla. Fair trade molasses makes these gingerbread cookies and cupcakes shine, while fair trade cocoa is a must in this traditional yule log cake. Enjoy the salted caramel trend with these salted toffee chocolate bar, topped off with fair trade pecans. Fair trade holiday baking—now that’s pretty sweet!