Fair trade markets for commodities have considerable potential to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals, but realizing this potential will depend upon ‘scaling up’ fair trade's impact. Unfortunately, from a marketing and consumer behaviour perspective, fair trade markets remain relatively under-researched and poorly understood in comparison to the mainstream. Using fair trade coffee as an example, this paper proposes an alternative to the dominant view that the key to expanding fair trade market share is a focus on greater ‘commercialization’. It highlights the potential of social marketing to promote the principles of fair trade, in a way that complements the emphasis on brand-building strategies for fair trade products. An approach that blends a commercial and social marketing orientation perhaps has the greatest potential to maintain fair trade's distinctive nature, while contributing to the achievement of its social and economic goals. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.