Traidcraft Geobar is 10 years old

Sometime in late March 1999 Waitrose received its first delivery of Geobars and my favourite snackbar was born. Of course, I’m a little bit biased as I was part of the launch team that created the product while I was working for Traidcraft. It was also bit tricky to see it on the shelf as Traidcraft was in Gateshead and the nearest Waitrose back then was in Newark – 160 miles away.

The team at Traidcraft – myself, Joe Osman (now a director at Traidcraft) and Stuart Palmer (now managing a hospital in Malawi) – were given just 10 weeks to create a product, design and produce packaging and get it manufactured and delivered to Waitrose. The original favourite name was going to be “Zanzibar” – taking the best fair trade ingredients from Africa and making a classic snackbar product. However, the fairtrade honey from Tanzania had dried up at the time and so Chilean honey was used instead. Zanzibar no longer seemed appropriate and so the Geobar was born.

Apparently 90% of all product launches fail – so the fact it still graces the shelves of supermarkets up and down the land is testament to the great ingredients and tasty recipe. As well as being the first snackbar to carry the Fairtrade Mark, it was also the first Traidcraft product to carry the mark. Until that point Traidcraft had felt that it was more well known in fairtrade circles than the mark was – almost certainly true at the time as the mark was in its infancy and Traidcraft was celebrating its 20th birthday. However, to reach out to new markets via the supermarkets we worked with Fairtrade Foundation to get the Mark on the product. You will now find the fairtrade mark on more than 200 products in the Traidcraft range.

Of course the product hasn’t stood still. The year after its original launch a chocolate version was created. Other varieties have appeared for a short period and then been replaced – Apple and Cranberry being  two that are no longer available. Despite that I suspect the new Honey Nut Geobar will be a permanent fixture in the range – a great tasting product in a handy 32g size bar.

The producers haven’t stood still either. Hundreds of tonnes of Chilean honey and South African raisins have delivered great benefits back to the producers. The apricots are now sourced from an amazing project high up in the mountains in the North of Pakistan. Before Traidcraft and Tropical Wholefoods got involved the apricots were grown simply for their kernels – the sweet tasting apricot flesh was simply thrown away. Using solar drying the apricots are dried and exported to the UK. This is a great new source income for disadvantaged farmers who grow and now dry them.

So well done Traidcraft – the Geobar is 10 years old. The sales are now £5million a year on that one product line – so well done to you all too for being loyal, committed customers of this excellent product. Roll on another 10 years of fairtrade snacking.

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  • Stuart Palmer

    How could I resist joining the GEOBAR celebration? The bar is the same age as my daughter, Iona, and was a real answer to desperate prayer. Now I live near to some of the people in MALAWI who benefit from fair trade. You can be cynical, or you can engage and make the world just a little bit better for someone somewhere. The extra cash stops children dying of malaria, means a brother can go to school and puts a tin sheet on the roof so you can keep dry in the rains. GEOBAR – good mouth feel, even better heart feel. Happy 10th birthday!

  • Cynthia Cleverdon

    Well done Guys, as a registered Traidcraft Fairtrader its nice to hear about how the Geobar was born! Apricot still remains the most popular with my customers. Shame the cranberry was been replaced with mixed berry and yes I am inclined to agree the Honey Nut is a delicious new addition which is nice for those who like nuts and not rasins ! Hope they are all going strong in a eleven years time when they come of age !!

  • Joe Osman

    Thanks for bringing back the memories Andy. I recall us trying to persuade a manufacturer to take on the product in the hope that we could manage 100,000 bars worth of production in a year. That’s probably a few days worth of sales right now. And did we really spend most of the journey back (Stuart) brainstorming brand names (although Geobar wasn’t one of them). Maybe I kept the several pages of suggestions we came up with!

    Different problems now. Not just about being able to give enough orders to a producer but having enough producers to keep up with the sales volume. Raisin producers on 3 continents would you believe?

    The great thing is that Traidcraft is the same now as it was then – innovative, pioneering new categories of Fair Trade. Check out the rubber gloves in Tesco and watch out for the exciting Spring product launch in Coop. It’s what sets Traidcraft apart from other Fair Trade brands and a great reason to keep on choosing Traidcraft.