The UK's Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body that awards its Fairtrade mark to products that meet standards drawn up by Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO). These standards include a guaranteed fairtrade minimum price, which is agreed with producers
The survey was commissioned from TNS CAPI OmniBus by the foundation and conducted amongst 2082 individuals in the UK, aged 16 years and over, by face-to-face interviews.
It found that that 70 per cent of the population now recognise the foundation's fairtrade mark, up from 57 per cent in 2007.
There has been an increase in the percentage of consumers who now report buying fairtrade products regularly between last year and this year (from 18 to 24 per cent) and regularly (from 15 to 17 per cent).
The number of people who said they never buy fairtrade products was also said to decrease.
"This indicates that people are no longer buying fairtrade products as a one-off and are moving across sectors in their purchasing," said the foundation in a communication of the findings.
For the food industry, what now appears to be an enduring movement in the sector rather than a flash-in-the-pan trend, could be justification for a switch towards ethically sourced ingredients.
If consumers are actually starting to seek out fairtrade products and remain willing to pay the premium they typically carry, it follows that manufacturers that can cater to their needs will be at an advantage.
Retail sales of fairtrade products in the UK rose 72 per cent between 2006 and 2007, according to TNS, from £286m (c €400m) to £493m (c €620.5m). The Fairtrade Foundation has certified some 3000 products.
The Fairtrade Foundation, which expressed surprise itself in the scale of the findings, said that the uptake of fairtrade by "big and mainstream companies" has contributed to making the mark well known.
But while Harriet Lamb, executive director, praised progress to date, she said there is still a way to go:
"The challenge us now set for UK business to male more fairtrade products available… but there is a long way to go as producers in the developing world line up to be able to supply the UK fairtrade market and UK consumers show their willingness to buy fairtrade goods as they become available across all sectors."
The survey showed that coffee is still the best-known Fairtrade product, but awareness of fairtrade tea, chocolate, coffee and cotton has also increased significantly.
The main force, said the foundation, has been the grassroots, community movement towards fairtrade, with whole towns, churches, synagogues, universities and schools campaigning to support and promote fairtrade in their local area.