Twin has an incredible history dating back to 1985, when it was formed in the final months of the Greater London Council as the Third World Information Network. It quickly became clear that as well as information on markets, trade for development was what farmers needed from the organisation. Twin went from importing goods such as rocking chairs and cigars in solidarity with cooperative movements, to establishing an innovative and ground breaking model, in combining trade (through Twin Trading) with social and economic development in partnership with coffee cooperatives in Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua and East Africa.
Twin was at the forefront of the Fair Trade cooperative movement and recognised the need to also work with farmers to improve the quality of their products to achieve the best opportunities in the markets. Twin began to work with coffee cooperatives in earnest following the collapse of the international coffee agreement in 1989 and the huge slump in coffee prices and opportunities for market access for smallholder farmers. Twin imported its first container of coffee in 1989 on credit from farmers coops in Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru who had the vision to see that their participation in this early Fair Trade model could enable them to participate in the value chain and build a stronger future. This led Twin to officially launch Cafédirect in 1991, with the aim of furthering farmer ownership and influence over the products they supplied to market. For many years, Twin, working closely with coffee cooperatives, managed the supply chain purchases and producer partnership programme for Cafédirect.
In 1998, Twin launched Divine, working with cocoa farmers in Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana, in 2001 brought the first Fairtrade bananas to the UK through AgroFair UK, and in 2007, launched Liberation, working with nut farmers in Latin America, Africa and India.
All companies have innovative ownership structures with farmers as owners and board members. They advocate for a different way of doing business, connecting farmers and consumers for mutual benefit.
In more recent years, Twin has successfully combined public/private investment partnerships in its producer partnership programme with trading for development. Twin has worked with East African coffee farmers in a Joint Marketing Initiative to connect farmers more directly with buyers in specialty markets and has been pivotal in opening new market opportunities with cooperatives in lesser known origins, notably building specialty coffee markets with cooperatives in DR Congo and craft cocoa opportunities with cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone, to name just two.