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Fair Trade Chocolate Hits the Mainstream

Two major chocolatiers announce commitments to source cocoa mass from sustainably harvested sources, bringing fair trade chocolate bars to the mainstream.

An announcement from a major chocolatier is giving social justice advocates something to smile about. Cadbury proclaimed its popular Dairy Milk chocolate bar sold in the U.K. will now contain 100 percent Fair Trade certified cocoa, harvested sustainably from farms in Ghana.
Fair Trade certification is similar to organic certification in that it is verified by a third party and ensures that environmentally sustainable farming practices are employed. In addition, the Fair Trade system emphasizes a minimum price guarantee and other economic and social benefits, such as ensuring the workers receive a living wage, and a portion of the profits are invested in community development projects including building schools, roads or water wells.

The company reports it will increase the amount of Fair Trade certified cocoa purchased from Ghana to 15,000 metric tons (16,534 tons US), a threefold increase from what the country currently sells, Cadbury said in a statement. This growth in fair trade cocoa production is significant because last year global sales were slightly more than 10,000 metric tons, according to the annual report by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International.

The popular Dairy Milk bars will soon be available in more than 30,000 retail outlets, without an increase in price and while maintaining the same taste, the company reports.

Trevor Bond, managing director of Cadbury Britain and Ireland said in a prepared statement that research shows one factor that prevents people from purchasing fair trade products is the perception of higher price.
"This creates a tipping point for Fair Trade with Fair Trade Cadbury Dairy Milk bars available to all, with the same great taste and at no extra cost," Bond said in a statement.

According to Cadbury, the company is investing  £45 million (about $74 million) over the next 10 years to secure sustainably harvested cocoa from Ghana. The Cadbury Cocoa Partnership was developed through the United Nations Development Program.

Cadbury is not the only major chocolatier with sweet news for farmers and fairtrade-hungry shoppers.

Mars, Inc., headquartered in McLean, VA, reports it has contracted its first batch of sustainably harvested cocoa beans, certified by UTZ. Similar to other sustainable certifications, UTZ "helps coffee growers to be more professional and competitive in production and selling, and it enables coffee brands to incorporate and credibly demonstrate responsibility in their entire product range," according to the company's website.

One of the leading chocolate makers in the U.S., Mars announced in April plans to source cocoa for all of its products from sustainably harvested farms by 2020. In addition to working with UTZ Certified cocoa, Mars announced it will source some of its cocoa from suppliers that bear the Rainforest Alliance Certification symbol, which also certifies agricultural crops grown in an environmentally friendly manner.
In a statement timed to the announcement of Mars’ sustainable cocoa commitment, Paul Rice, President and Chief Executive Officer of TransFair USA said Mars' is proof that consumers want to hold companies accountable for how products are developed and sourced. The Oakland-based non-profit is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.

"We applaud what Mars is doing and we hope the company isn't done," said Rice in a statement.

"While sustainable farm practices are very important, going forward, we hope Mars will also take a look at ensuring cocoa farmer protection and make a goal of providing a better future for farmers by ensuring that they receive fair wages," Rice continued.

Mainstream access to Fair Trade certified products is important, said Katie Barrow, a representative for TransFair USA, because it allows small producers to access a portion of the market where they are competing against large-scale plantations.

"The more Fair Trade certified products are available and the bigger the demand there is of fair trade, the more producers will feel the impact," Barrow said.

According to Rice, retail sales of certified Fair Trade products has grown to $1 billion in the U.S. In addition, nearly 2,000 metric tons of cocoa were sold in the U.S. last year, almost twice the amount from 2007, according to an annual report by the organization.

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