Photo : Éric St-Pierre
Coopacvod, Dondon, Haiti

The ‘Small Producers’ Symbol’ Contest is Over !

All of us at Santropol would like to express our sincerest thanks to all of you who submitted their comments. 

We are profoundly encouraged by the positive feedback regarding this radical initiative on the part of small producers in the South to launch their own ‘fair trade’ system.

But even more important is the impact that your support will have upon small producers themselves, the confidence that it will inspire among them, knowing that, at the end of the line, you understand and endorse their project.

You may not realize it, but you were the first ‘consumer’ group in the world to be informed, consulted and ‘polled’ about this new ‘fair trade’ system, the Small Producers’ Symbol. And the results of that poll, your freely chosen words and opinions, promise to have an enormously significant impact far beyond Montréal.

Your comments are now in the process of being translated into Spanish and shall be communicated ultimately to hundreds of thousands of people, the people who provide you with the coffee you love.  They will be thrilled to hear from you.

As this project unfolds, we will update all contest participants of new developments. 

For those of you who were unfortunately unable to participate in the contest, your comments are still more than welcome. Just continue reading below.

This is the story :

In 2010, Santropol, in collaboration with over 300 small-producer cooperatives representing nearly one million people,  began to participate directly in the building and promotion of  the first producer-owned and managed fair trade system in the world:  The Small Producers’ Symbol.  

Why did we do this?

Having been a 100% ‘Fair Trade’ coffee roaster in Montréal since 1999, we have closely observed the evolution of the movement, and particularly the evolution of its ‘certification’ agencies.

We have witnessed with dismay what we consider to be the gradual dilution and co-optation of the Fair Trade mission in the name of ‘increasing volume’ and ‘mainstreaming’.

Over the last years, we have seen the launch of many alternative certifications, all based in the North, most of which have defined standards and prices for producers which are even lower than the already inadequate standards and prices in previously established systems.

Our current Fair Trade certifier, Fair Trade International (previously known as FLO), represented in Canada by Fair Trade Canada, (previously known as TransFair Canada), has, as of January 2012, broken in two, with the American branch, Fair Trade USA, declaring its independence and establishing even lower standards for entry into their system, including, above all, offering Fair Trade certification to large privately-owned coffee plantations. 

The inclusion of these coffee plantations, largely at the behest of multinational corporations, seriously threatens the survival of the small-producer cooperatives that are, in fact, the founders and the heart of the Fair Trade movement as well as the survival of their communities and local economies.

For these reasons, we have now decided to change our ‘Fair Trade’ certifier: from now on we shall respect standards and prices determined by and for small producers, inside a new certification system owned and governed by small producers:  the Small Producers’ Symbol.

The Small Producers’ Symbol is much more than just another fair trade product certification. It is a radical declaration of values and a blueprint for their practical application in the face of runaway globalization and all of its damaging side effects upon economic and social justice, as well as upon the environmental integrity of our planet itself. It represents the voice and the vision, not to mention the courage, of hundreds of thousands of small farmers…

Ultimately, the success of this initiative depends upon you, the ‘consumer’.  This is an alliance of the small. We invite you to submit your questions, comments and opinions. Your feedback and support will hopefully inspire many others, in both North and South, to build together a new, true link between Consumers and Producers based on mutual respect and common sense.

 The little white box below is ready to receive your questions or comments. Thank you for your participation !


  • Chris Chevalier

    Hello! I understand that the contest is open to Québec residents only but I wanted an opportunity to submit my comments anyway! I’ve been ordering coffee from you for well over a year now and love your products. Some of the motivating factors for me when choosing products of any kind are whether they are sustainably and organically produced and whether the product is fair trade. That is, in part, what I do to help others and ensure that our Mother, the Earth is respected. I applaud your efforts to ensure that your coffees meet my “standards”! Further, I am happy to know you are vigilant in ensuring that growers get a fair price for their product. I will continue to support you and bring new customers on board! Thank you so much!

    Comment | 16/05/2012
  • Alastair

    small producers – – – the name does not make me think of anything being fair / sustainable / – – just small.
    Is it too late to rethink the name? the concept and rationale behind your project is very good, but I’m concerned from a marketing standpoint that your new logo/mark will need explaining – – which to a certain degree ‘FAIR TRADE’ has never had to do…..

    Is it aimed at products being sold mainly in Quebec only?

    How would this effect sales to the US?

    Comment | 23/05/2012
  • Santropol

    Hello Alastair,

    Thank you for your comment. You have made an extremely good point.

    The name ‘Small Producers’ (Pequeños Productores) was conceived by small producers in the South to distinguish themselves from large privately-owned plantations and agribusinesses (for coffee, bananas, etc.) which constitute a serious threat to smallholders and the cooperatives of which they form part, not to mention to local economies and to the political empowerment of the ‘little guy’ in general. That’s why the Symbol represents much more than just another certification system. The significance of the name is self-evident in the South, but you’re right when you say that it mostly draws a blank in the North. It was not conceived with a Northern marketing mind-set.

    You may be interested to know that we, in the North, are often perceived by small producers in the South as having already lost the battle that they continue to fight, having seen the vast majority of our ‘Main Streets’, owner-operated businesses, farms, industries and natural resources, not to mention our cultures and our very minds, co-opted and absorbed by big-box stores and restaurants, agribusinesses, banks, multinationals and big media. We used to be ‘small producers’ too; now all we have left are some jobs (and less and less of those, except for perhaps the McJobs)! So there’s also a resonance with the ’99%’ issue here. A lot of explaining to do, for sure.

    It’s almost definitely too late to change the name, not to mention the world, but if you can think of any phrase or slogan that hits the bullseye, your feedback is very welcome, even crucial. We will send it immediately to all the appropriate parties. We’ve come up with a few: ‘Small Producer Approved’, ‘Small is Beautiful’…

    Regarding your question about the Québec market, this initiative targets all of Europe and North America, as well as markets in producer countries…

    Thank you again, hope to hear from you soon !

    Comment | 25/05/2012
  • Every morning the VERY first thing we do is start the coffee-your Santropol Espresso Would not even entertain the idea of switching!

    Comment | 24/05/2012
  • Leonard Rosen

    “Caffeine is my shepherd; I shall not doze.
    It maketh me to wake in green pastures:
    It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses.
    It restoreth my buzz:
    It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name’s sake.
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of addiction,
    I will fear no Equal
    For thou art with me; thy cream and thy sugar they comfort me.
    Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of the Santropol.:
    Thou annointest my day with pep; my mug runneth over
    Surely richness and taste shall follow me all the days of my life:
    And I will dwell in the House of Mochas forever.”

    Is that not great.

    The reason Barbara and I just adore your coffee is that we always know what quality to expect,, superior coffee We like all your coffees but prefer the espresso classique. We grind it for our Cusinart and know that the taste will always be superior to any other coffees. We’ve tried many others but always come back to Santropol!

    We always appreciated your fair trade assn but as you have mentioned your current symbol will do much to protect the small growers and preserve the quality of the coffee.


    Comment | 24/05/2012
  • Genevieve

    Thank you for taking the time to inform us about this monumental and important change. As a consumer I trusted that the fair trade symbol that was presented to me represented a standard that I could support. Coffee is your business, certainly not mine and I trust that you are making a decision that will benefit the producers of the coffee, as well as quality of the coffee (I think both go hand in hand!) and health of the planet. Again, thank you for taking a stand on this issue. If need be, I will pay more for a product I can feel good about. Thank you!

    Comment | 25/05/2012
  • wim


    any company that makes the interest of the workers a priority
    does a good thing and not just in marketing.

    i am most inspired by the photo of the woman on this page.
    seeing her strong fingers holding the very beans that
    we are drinking the coffee from says it all.


    Comment | 28/05/2012
  • Robert Zorzi

    With the amount of trade happening between developed and developing nations particularly in the field of agriculture (and much to the disadvantage of developing nations) a certifiable “fair trade” organization (onus on fair) is a must. Coffee is a commodity much in demand and is extremely profitable, so it is not at all surprising that Fair Trade International was co-opted (no pun intended) by multinationals who seek to capitalize on the good name built by organizations devoted to treating producers fairly. The increasing knowledge of the public of the inequality between the producers of coffee and the importers/distributors has led many to pay the “premium” price in order to ensure that those who labor to produce the coffee can make a wage they can live off of, after all fair is fair.
    Those multinationals will no doubt continue to charge the “premium price” while paying the producers the pittance they usually do. There will be no commitment to community development, nor environmental sustainability that was once a hallmark of this organization.
    But thanks to you we the consumers can be informed in order to make the right choice, the choice we thought we were making when buying transfair. Thank you for keeping us informed, and for holding yourselves and us to a higher standard

    By the way the Montrealaise coffee you roast ROCKS! mmmmmm I think I feel the need for a pot of coffee

    Comment | 31/05/2012
  • damaris

    Hi, I had recently heard about this controversy on the CBC. The detailed clarification is most informative and I support the Santropol move. By the way, I am a devotee of the Kaf-Mambo blend and it would be nice if you could provide a more informative label indicating the place(s) of origin of this blend.

    Comment | 04/06/2012
  • Santropol

    @damaris : more informative label is a great idea ! In the meantime, you helped discover that the French content for the Kaf Mambo description points the origins, but not the English version ! Anyhow, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru and Mexico are contributing countries. Follow this link to discover the co-ops.

    Comment | 05/06/2012
  • Thomas


    Comment | 05/06/2012
  • Lisa

    I love that this contest is all about dialogue and exchanging ideas about a real issue—what a great idea!

    I’m thinking about the word choice… I do think that ultimately “small” comes with all kinds of positive associations (including sustainability, local-production, authenticity, respect for artisans and craft). But what if it also spelled out a slogan or philosophy?

    Sustainable / Movement / Agency / Labour / Land

    Solution / Management / Alternative / Longevity / Local

    Comment | 05/06/2012
  • Nick Speal

    Your coffee is legit.

    By legit, I mean that your coffee tastes great.

    And this symbol is a cool movement to give the power to the people.

    Keep up the good work.

    Comment | 06/06/2012
  • Nicholas

    This contest is an excellent way to draw attention to this change in the meaning of fair trade.

    I look forward to buying many more bags of coffee, to help out the little guy.

    Comment | 06/06/2012
  • Jake Beleiberg

    I think your symbol but I don’t think it visually conveys your messages of and “fair” very well. Perhaps you could integrate some symbols to convey this message: a balanced scale might be a good one. Otherwise I quite like it. The use the earth tone color scheme is a good touch.


    Comment | 06/06/2012
  • Mac Garrison

    I like ideology behind fair trade coffee, and I think the coffee you guys sell is delightful. What I enjoy most about your coffee is the fact that quality is ensured in every brew. Keep up the great work!


    Comment | 06/06/2012
  • coffee-lover

    @Mac Garrison

    I like ideology behind fair trade coffee too!

    especially when it comes to small producers.

    they have the best ideologies


    Yeah, dialoge and exchange about real issues needs to be done better in social media! Good point about the word choice.

    what do you think about this one?

    Small / Money / And / Local / Land

    It makes it clear that buying this coffee is taking a stand against negative influences, like big money and non-local land

    @Nick Speal

    Power to the people, Man!

    Comment | 11/06/2012
  • Linda Guignion

    Dear Friends,

    I love your coffee! Although I have bought it at my local grocery store, I have recently been purchasing it through my Church. It is sold as a fundraiser for one of our local outreach missions, St. Columba House in Pointe St. Charles. I get so much please from my morning Santropol not only because of its exceptional flavour but also because I know that by drinking the coffee I am supporting three causes which are close to my heart: St. Columba House, the Fair Trade movement and coffee production which helps the planet.

    Comment | 15/06/2012
  • Annie Hamilton

    I am a coffee drinker. I drink multiple cups a day. When I came to montreal, I had posted on my facebook “who knows where I can get coffee roasted in montreal?” No one replied with a solid response. I was told to check out many respectable coffee shops, but unfortunately, each one I went to had good coffee, but coffee shipped here from Portland, Vancouver..etc etc. I wasn’t looking for west coast coffee! I was looking for the freshest of the fresh, the most recently roasted, locally roasted coffee. I was at a point that I was considering ordering my own green beans and trying it out for myself., but alas, I stumbled upon Santropol at Touski one Sunday afternoon. Since that Sunday I haven’t had any other brand of coffee in my house. I love that it’s local. I love that it’s fresh. I love that it now dawns a ‘small producers’ symbol’ because it makes it more easily recognizable and sets it apart from other large scale companies. I’ll certainly make an effort to look for and support other products with the symbol. Thanks Santropol for introducing me to the symbol…..and also for your delicious beans!

    Comment | 19/06/2012
  • Hi!

    I love buying Santropol coffee at my local co-op restaurant, Touski on Ontario Est. It’s nice to support a local retailer, the fair trade movement and small producers all at the same time, while still drinking delicious coffee. I don’t think I’ve bought any different kinds of coffee since first buying a bag of Santropol. I love the opportunity to try different varieties while still knowing that the quality is there.

    I think the symbol is a good idea because it gives consumers the chance to make a choice on whether or not they want to support workers initiatives and fair trade coffee.

    Comment | 19/06/2012
  • Hi,

    Since Fair Trade USA is relaxing their standards and moving to encourage larger producers, I think this project and its name are important, relevant and current. Kudos to you all for valuing the work and efforts of smaller-scale coffee farmers.

    My partner and I live down the street from Café Santropol and drink your roasts most every morning at home (there are always a couple of bags going on our coffee shelf). Knowing that Brûlerie Santropol is even further supporting the independent farmer further solidifies our decision to continue drinking your brew.

    Comment | 22/06/2012
  • Carl

    Hello All,

    I am very happy to hear that Santropol takes the time to monitor the Fare Trade organization they adhere to. This ensures that standards are kept up and you can stay proud and believe in the logos you display on your bags.

    Comment | 22/06/2012
  • Martin King

    I’m brewing up some krakatoa right now. I’ve been buying Santropol coffee almost exclusively for the past 5 years — not only because it’s fair trade, but also because it’s great. Lately, when I’m buying a fresh pound of coffee, I pick a different santropol roast at random… it’s always excellent.

    Also, I wanted to say thanks for making some great decaf coffee as well. My wife loves coffee, but can only have so much caffeine, so good tasting decaf is a must in our house (she brews it half-half).

    For the different fair trade labels, I think it’s a shame that the certification is being fragmented in this way, since it can lead to confusion among consumers. On the other hand, if these large plantations are actually improving their conditions and treatment of workers to meet the (weakened) certification criteria, maybe it’s still a net positive overall.

    Comment | 22/06/2012
  • MontrealCoffee

    I want to win the contest more than ed.

    If I win, I will be a good guy and share some of the delicious coffee with him, though.

    Comment | 28/06/2012
  • Ed

    Right on! Dig the symbol. Its a slap in the face to big coffee bean!

    @Jake: dig the earth tones too man!

    Comment | 28/06/2012
  • Michael Burrows

    Having traveled to places like Honduras, Costa Rica and Venezuela, we have seen and/or visited small family owned coffee plantations (mostly shade grown), and we appreciate how much work and effort is involved in nurturing, protecting and processing coffee for the small family owned business. We support fair trade and organic farming whenever possible to ensure that those who do the really hard work, put in all the hours, experience the most risk and typically receive the smallest reward are provided a more representative piece of the profits. .. and by the way, you have a great selection of brews but it would be nice if your flavour profiles were also displayed in Engish (even in smaller print). Cheers.

    Comment | 30/06/2012
  • Suzanne

    Bonjour, I am glad I read this as I was wondering what happened to the Fair Trade symbol. I take it we are to assume that the new label means it is Very Fair! Anyways the coffee is very good. I needed to cut down on caffeine so I mix the expresso classic (or Montréalaise) with your decaf. It is amazingly good.The very black Salvaterra makes it nice and strong in taste where as the Cordillero is brown and lighter … I go for the Salvaterra/Montréalaise mix 50/50 on my stove top expresso maker. yum.

    Comment | 02/07/2012
  • That’s the thinking of a creative mind.

    Comment | 02/07/2012
  • Scott

    I stumbled upon your coffee in a local grocery store about a year ago and ever since then I’ve been madly in love with it! The taste is excellent and unmatched by any other coffee distributor that I know of in Montreal. The best part though is Santropol’s commitment to dealing fair trade and organic coffee! The fact that Santropol changed fair trade certifier to remain committed to small producers speaks so much about the business. In this mass-market, capitalist world, it’s nice to see people standing out against the rest. Please keep doing what you do!

    Comment | 05/07/2012
  • malcolm laing

    For the last few months we have been buying pounds of Santropol Coffee at a local restaurant near our house (Touski). We have been very impressed with the quality of the coffee and look forward trying different varieties each visit. We grind the coffee at home before brewing and it always comes out perfect. Thank you for producing delicious and fair trade coffee at a reasonable price. Keep up the good work.

    Today I picked up a bag of coffee and read that one can win free coffee by submitting their comments, so here they are.



    Comment | 05/07/2012
  • Sarah Corkery

    I’m a huge coffee drinker, and have tried to switch mainly to fair trade since I became aware of the option. This is a great campaign and I will definitely spread the word! Thanks for caring, Santropol!

    Comment | 05/07/2012
  • Sarah

    Yum, love your coffee, and love the commitment towards building the best fair trade system there can be. It’s easy for consumers to make the switch and support the growers, but raising awareness will definitely be the biggest challenge. I’ll definitely be telling my friends and family about this – keep up the good work!

    Comment | 05/07/2012
  • Jessica

    Finally an alternative to conventional Fair Trade! It always seemed a little odd to me that the certification and pricing wasn’t controlled by the producers. Congratulations on being bold and standing with the producers who keep us fueled daily. I just bought two more pounds of coffee at Dix Milles Villages, and I’m sticking with this exciting new venture.

    Comment | 11/07/2012
  • Katharine

    Thank you for introducing me to the small producers symbol and to the values that it represents. I look forward to supporting this producer owned and managed group. Your coffee is excellent!

    Comment | 11/07/2012
  • suzanne

    I left a comment already but am back because I have a question. How much caffeine is in Salvaterra and Cordillero? Where can I find this out? Thanks

    Comment | 25/04/2013
  • Santropol

    Hey Suzanne,

    Here’s a link to a study made a few years back :

    A close look to the results of the swiss water process guarantees you a decaffeination to 99.9%. As you can read in the Wikipedia article here :

    Nonetheless, further down in the same Wikipedia article, you will find a link to a study conducted in restaurants where the machines weren’t cleaned. Not surprinsingly, leftover caffeine is detectable !

    Have a great one !

    dario @santropol

    Comment | 29/04/2013

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.