Coffee labelled ‘Utz Certified’ is well established in the Swiss and Dutch Markets; now it is also sold in Belgium. Its originators see themselves as complementary to the long standing systems of fair trade certification.

The Utz Certified certification programme was created in 1997. It was born out of the common desire of a Guatemalan coffee producer and a Dutch coffee roasting firm, Ahold Coffee Company, to provide better mutual knowledge between the operators in the commercial chain of the “little green beans”. The former owned a plantation that was considered too big to fall within the Fairtrade criteria. The latter estimated that only 5% of consumers in the countries of the North are actually ready to play an active role by purchasing organic and/or fair trade products.

These two founders developed a set of requirements to which any coffee producer may subscribe: reasonable use of pesticides, controlled use of water and energy, protection of workers’ rights, safety in the workplace, access to health care for workers and their families, protection of biodiversity, etc. A particular emphasis is placed on traceability.

After certification by an independent organisation (IMO, Ecocert, etc.), coffee may bear the Utz Certified label.  The requirements are based on, among other things, International Labour Organisation’s core labour standards, EurepGap (protocol for good agricultural practices in fruit and vegetables). Utz Certified sees its mission not so much as direct aid to the development of small communities but more as a help to improve professionalism and competitiveness of producers, who are invited at the same time to be more socially and environmentally responsible. Utz Certified guarantees the payment of a (small) premium. This represents the added value of the product and therefore depends on production techniques, traceability, taste, etc.

Utz Certified has been a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil since 2007 and has been responsible for the traceability system of RSPO.