Cocoa Policy

Our Cocoa Policy


Each delicious bite of chocolate starts somewhere. You may not know it, but your chocolate bar began in the hands of one of five million small-scale farmers in parts of West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. From cocoa seed to your mouth takes a lot of work. These farmers continually struggle with unproductive, aging cocoa trees they can’t afford to replace. Their yields, incomes and quality of life are in decline.

While their struggle goes on, the chocolate industry continues to grow. By 2020, demand for cocoa might even surpass the available supply — by more than one million tons. That is, unless we act now to boost production.

A secure future for cocoa — and the people whose lives depend on it — begins with helping farmers increase how much cocoa they produce and the money they make from it. Farmers, especially those in West Africa, need access to improved planting materials, fertilizers and training in good agricultural practices, so they can produce more cocoa on the land that they have. Our work in Indonesia and West Africa has shown that this kind of support can help farmers to triple their yields in only three to five years. This not only boosts supplies of the magic beans, but also helps farmers lift their families out of poverty and gain access to essential services like education and health care.

To promote our approach around the world, our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative works across three areas to put farmers first:

  • Certifying our entire cocoa supply and encouraging others in our industry to commit to certification, to reach as many farmers as possible.
  • Conducting breakthrough research to improve cocoa breeding, farming methods, and protection against pests and disease.
  • Investing in critical cocoa sourcing regions to give farmers the knowledge and technology they need to triple their yields.

Check out a summary of our work in these three areas below. More information can be found on our cocoa sustainability website.

Major Accomplishments Toward Sustainable Cocoa

  • In 2009, we committed to buying 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020. We are currently the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations: UTZ, the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International.
  • In 2010, Mars signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Minister of Agriculture of Côte D'Ivoire, which allows us to work directly with the Ivorian government on productivity projects for farmers.
  • Mars collaborates with groups in the chocolate industry who share our view and are willing to work with us — including competitors. We have signed MoUs with cocoa suppliers Barry-Callebaut and ECOM to expand our programs in Côte d'Ivoire. And we congratulated Ferrero and Hershey on becoming the second and third major manufacturers, respectively, to commit to 100-percent-certified cocoa.
  • Mars has invested heavily in breakthrough science to benefit farmers, including mapping the genome and releasing the results into the public domain so they can be translated into more effective breeding and lead to healthier, more productive trees for farmers.
  • Mars is the world’s largest purchaser of certified cocoa, buying nearly 90,000 tons of cocoa in 2012 and exceeding our 20 percent global volume target.
  • We have 17 Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) in Côte d’Ivoire, including four franchise CDCs built by our collaborators, ECOM and Barry-Callebaut. We have also selected the first five Cocoa Village Clinics operators in Soubré.

Our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative

Certification is the best tool the cocoa industry has to provide farmers across the world with consistent and continued support. Our cocoa certification practices aim to go the extra mile by introducing productivity measures that directly ties certification to increases in growers’ incomes.

We are proud to tell you that Mars was the first global chocolate company to commit to sourcing only certified cocoa, and we will do so by 2020. Our plan is to buy a minimum of 100,000 tons of certified cocoa each year from both Rainforest Alliance-certified™ and UTZ-certified supplies.

Our strong steps have echoed throughout the global cocoa industry, leading to higher levels of certification worldwide. Our promise even helped usher in the first UTZ-certified cocoa from Indonesia, and we continue to develop new cocoa-growing regions in Asia — most recently in Vietnam.

MALTESERS® is the third-biggest confectionery brand in the U.K., and all our products under the brand in the U.K. and Ireland carry the Fairtrade logo. The popularity of this product led to an increase in total U.K. sales of chocolate made from Fairtrade-certified cocoa by 10 percent. We want to scale up our use of Fairtrade certification in the long term to help us accomplish our 2020 target.

What We’ve Learned

Research into cocoa cultivation has long been under-resourced despite its importance to the world economy. As a result, estimates show that cocoa farmers produce just 10 percent of the output they could achieve if conditions were perfect. By contrast, corn production has reached 60 percent of its theoretical potential.

Though governments, agricultural agencies and universities typically fund cocoa research, we at Mars are excited to make a difference ourselves. We fund and lead innovative research programs that will help us understand how to improve cocoa quality and quantity, as well as better control of pests and diseases. We hope our investment in this area will both help the farmers we rely on and ensure cocoa supplies for years to come.

Leading this work is the Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil, which opened in 1982. The Center is a hub for world-class science and collaboration and leads our work on cocoa breeding, agroforestry systems, and biodiversity-rich environments and land rehabilitation.

We’re particularly proud of our collaboration with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center, which resulted in Mars publicly releasing the cocoa genome’s sequencing so scientists worldwide can use it to develop more resilient and higher yielding cocoa crops — a cool bit of science that will help us all progress toward a better cocoa industry.

Technology Transfer

We want to give the greatest benefits to the largest number of farmers. So Mars Chocolate is building Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) in several cocoa-growing regions of Asia and West Africa, in partnership with international donor agencies, governments and other groups. These centers provide farmers with the tools, techniques and training to get the most out of their crops. Farmers can use planting materials from CDCs to establish Cocoa Village Clinics — local nurseries that facilitate the commercial distribution of cocoa plants — providing an additional source of income.

A Vision for Change

Here at Mars, we see a bright future for cocoa. By 2020, we hope to reach 150,000 of Côte d'Ivoire's 750,000 farmers and help them triple their yields to up to 1.5 tons per hectare. We call it our Vision for Change program.

We started the process in 2010, when we signed an agreement with the government of Côte d’Ivoire that served as the cornerstone of our commitment to collaboration and investment in the country. Under Vision for Change, we are setting up 25 Cocoa Development Centers in the country to reach 50,000 farmers, beginning in Soubré — the country’s main cocoa-growing region. We will then work with industry partners to create an additional 50 Centers to reach an additional 100,000 farmers.

We’ve made good progress so far. Seventeen CDCs were created by the end of 2012, including four built by our collaborators, ECOM and Barry-Callebaut. With help from our friends, we’ve established a strong strategy and methodology for monitoring the Centers’ performance. Check out our cocoa sustainability website for more details.

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