ing Monoprix's lead, other chains
picked up the Alter Eco line and last
year the brand was sold in over 4,000
stores, bringing in over $30 million in
sales in France alone.
Alter Eco’s U.S. debut came in
2004, when two of Lecomte’s long-time
friends, Mathieu Senard and Edouard
Rollet, offered to take the product to
Natural Products Expo West to see if
there was any interest. The show
proved that the U.S. market was indeed hungry for change and soon the
largest natural foods distributor in the
country, United Natural Foods Incorporated, came calling. Rollet and
Senard went to work building Alter
Eco Americas, and by 2005 they were
selling a product line created specifically for the U.S. market.
Both Senard and Rollet shared
Lecomte’s passion for social change
and had been involved in international
development and social betterment efforts. Senard had operated an orphanage
in the impoverished rural region of Siem Reap, Cambodia, while Rollet had
worked with UNICEF in Dakar, Senegal and later served as an international
trade specialist and senior trade attaché in the French Embassy’s Economic Department in New York City. This combined experience made them the perfect
team to take Alter Eco to one of the largest markets in the world. Since 2005,
the two entrepreneurs have developed 32 products and grown the U.S. company to over $2 million in sales. Although the development of the fair trade
market in the United States is several years behind Europe, because of its sheer
size America is already the number one fair trade market globally, with projected total retail sales of $1.25 billion by 2016 based on a conservative 10 percent annual rate of growth from today.
In addition to the United States, Alter Eco has been focusing on increasing
its presence internationally and has launched regional initiatives in Australia,
El Salvador, Brazil, Morocco and Japan.
Global Network of Co-ops and Family Farms
At the foundation of all this growth are the 60 co-ops—and over 250,000
farming families throughout the world—who grow “honest foods” for Alter
Eco. It is the company’s top priority to nurture these farming relationships.
“One of the things that is very particular about Alter Eco is that each product we sell, we buy directly from the farmer,” Senard commented. “We meet
with them, which enables us to discuss the methodology, quality control and