Our story

Creating fairness in trade since 1973

Trade Aid is a social enterprise creating fairness in trade. We work with small food and craft producers around the world, and we support and educate kiwi consumers to join with us in creating a world where trade is fair for all. Founded right here in New Zealand in 1973.

Kiwis are a great bunch. We know what it’s like to be small on the world stage and it doesn’t stop us. We stand up for what is right and lead the world when it matters. It was no accident that we were the first country to give women the vote or to introduce the 8-hour working day. We also know what it’s like to be an island alone, so we developed a unique culture and embraced creativity – who else could’ve invented snifters and pineapple lumps!

So when Christchurch couple Vi and Richard Cottrell knew there was a way they could help, they gathered their friends, cleared out their garage in preparation for artisan handcraft shipments from around the world, and started Trade Aid as a social enterprise, before anyone knew what a social enterprise* was!

To this day, no-one owns Trade Aid, or maybe everyone owns Trade Aid – that is to say all the Kiwis who have mucked in over the years to keep the vision alive – New Zealanders working together to achieve equity for all.

Since 1973, Trade Aid has been wholesaling beautiful craft and organic food products to hundreds of other kiwi businesses, who we’ve welcomed into our fair trade family of businesses. It’s a whānau that puts people over and above all else – Kiwi businesses who know it matters who makes our products, and that they are being treated right.

*A social enterprise is a business with a social purpose run along commercial lines. That means that as well as creating a sustainable and financial trading company we have to make sure that all the business decisions we make are good for the people we work with.

Trade Aid visiting producers in Bangladesh

Our fair trade partnerships

Social enterprises help bring change to the world. Trade Aid’s long history has proven that fair trade relationships can provide producer communities the support they need to solve problems and fulfil their aspirations.

Today we source our handmade, organic and fair trade products from 59 trading partner organisations across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Palestine and the Pacific.

These long term trading relationships represent hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers and artisans involved in fair trade.

People browsing outside a Trade Aid shop

Our community shops

Since 1973, Trade Aid’s success has been in sharing our vision for a fair world. Trade Aid staff and volunteers run our shops located from Whangārei through to Dunedin.

For many decades Trade Aid shops, trusts and the importing company were staffed mainly by volunteers passionate about contributing to a social enterprise, who were doing things differently and putting people over and above all else. Today there are many ways you can join us and get involved.

The Addington Store, Christchurch

Kiwi businesses working together

Trade Aid wouldn’t be the successful social enterprise it is today without working with great kiwi businesses up and down the country.

Today Trade Aid works with nearly 1200 businesses to wholesale beautiful artisan crafts and lovingly produced organic food products to this family of businesses who know it matters who makes our products, and that they are being treated right.

Atomic Roastery and Café, Auckland.

Great kiwi coffee

Beginning in 2003 local roasters started buying and roasting Trade Aid’s green fair trade coffee beans by the sack.

Today many of New Zealand’s most well-known coffee brands now source a large amount of their supply through Trade Aid’s fair trade coffee relationships.

These businesses have helped make us New Zealand’s largest importer of fair trade coffee. This is great for coffee drinkers and great for the producers who grow it.

Trade Aid chocolate stand at Trade Aid Whangarei

Great kiwi chocolate

Starting our own sweet revolution in 2014, we opened the Sweet Justice Chocolate Factory in Sydenham, Christchurch.

Owning our own chocolate factory is better for our grower partners who have the opportunity to own more value in the supply chain. It’s also better for the kiwi businesses who can join us in making delicious products with our fairly traded cocoa and sugar.

New Zealand chocolatiers and manufacturers make the best artisan chocolate and in working together we make sure everyone is getting a fair deal.

Students studying fair trade using Trade Aid resources

Educating about trade

As well as demonstrating how fair trade benefits skilled producers around the world through our trade, integral to Trade Aid’s work is educating Kiwis to understand what fair trade is.

Trade Aid educators are volunteers who live in every Trade Aid community. They are passionate about equity and being a conscious consumer and want to share Trade Aid’s nearly 50 years of knowledge of how fair trade benefits communities. We also encourage teachers to use our up-to-date and engaging resources to teach trade justice in their classrooms. Check out our schools and education programme.