Goats fuelled the boom last year, but it is an appetite for school dinners that is creating a surge in ethical gift giving this Christmas, reports the Guardian newspaper.
While it is predicted that average spending on seasonal gifts this year will fall to £310 per person, more than £360m is expected to be devoted to "conscience shopping" this Christmas, a third more than the £230m spent last year, according to new research by Oxfam.
The research is supported by other evidence from the thinktank Ekklesia which says that visitors to its website alone have this year spent in excess of £100,000 on such gifts.
The charity has sold 89,000 £6 packs of 100 school dinners for Africa online and over the phone this year. The figure for goats (at £24 each) is 55,000, with thousands more bought through the charity's 750 shops. More than 30,000 tree seed packs have been sold, translating to 1.5m trees. Providing an allotment (15,000) and donkeys (9,500) have also sold strongly.
Last year, Christmas profits in Oxfam shops rose by 30% compared with growth of 1-2% elsewhere on the high street.
A survey by the charity found that 85% of Britons planned to send charity Christmas cards this year. But there remains a distinct gender gap in conscience shopping. Some 75% of women claim to buy fairtrade produce compared with 63% of men, while 71% of women try to buy ethically sound gifts against 60% of men. Northern Ireland is the most ethically aware region, with more than 75% buying ethical goods, compared to only 62% of respondents in the North East.
"British shoppers want to 'give twice' with their Christmas purchases in ever greater numbers," said Chris Coe, Oxfam's trading director. "Even with this growth, conscience shopping still only accounts for around 2.5% of the total £14.7bn that will pass through the tills this Christmas."
Top 5 ethical gifts at Oxfam this year
1 Pack of vouchers for 100 school dinners (£6): 89,000 sold so far
2 A goat (£24): 55,000
3 Pack of seeds to plant 50 trees (£16): 30,000
4 Plant an allotment (£24): 15,000
5 A donkey (£60): 9,500
Click here to visit the Oxfam Unwrapped gift collection