Sustainable certification of cocoa steams ahead

by Jeff Gelski
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Fair Trade Certified and Utz Certified, two organizations known more for sustainable coffee certification, are having an impact on cocoa. The eventual results may bring about more opportunities to market products with sustainably sourced cocoa.

Utz Certified gives an explanation about the differences between it and Fairtrade, the two leading programs in coffee certification. The two groups are complementary but have different aims and principles. The Fair Trade movement primarily seeks fairness in international trade where small farmers receive a fair price. Producers must follow certain regulations, such as environmentally-friendly practices. Utz Certified aims to implement a worldwide standard for socially and environmentally responsible production and sourcing. Farmers must follow a code of conduct.

"While there is overlap with respect to the requirements in the areas of social, labor and environmental criteria among these certification programs, each has a different history and each positions itself in a unique way, highlighting particular areas of emphasis, scope and reach," said Parveen Werner, marketing director for Barry Callebaut North America, Chicago.

Both programs offer third-party validation that certain conditions are being met in the growing, production and/or manufacturing of ingredients or products, including the segregation of the ingredients or products, she said.

Fair Trade Certified chocolate involves more than 42,000 cocoa farmers and is gaining recognition from international companies. Cadbury expects its Cadbury Dairy Milk brand will receive Fair Trade certification in the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand markets early in 2010. The Dairy Milk brand already has such certification in Great Britain and Ireland.

Awareness of all Fair Trade Certified products continues to grow. Worldwide sales increased 22% in 2008 to an estimated €2.9 billion ($4.3 billion). Growth in the United States was 10%. The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) commissioned GlobeScan to perform the survey, which had a sample size of 14,500 people in 15 countries.

Among American consumers, 81% said seeing the Fair Trade Certified label positively affects their perception of a brand, and 57% said they would spend at least 5% more for Fair Trade Certified products.

"This research and our 2008 sales figures put to rest any thought that Fair Trade Certified is a boom-time luxury," said Paul Rice, chief executive of TransFair USA, the non-profit organization responsible for Fair Trade Certified in the United States.

Utz Certified began certifying coffee supply chains in 2002 and now is developing sustainability models for other sectors such as tea, palm oil and cocoa. The market-oriented sustainability program seeks to enhance professional farming and have a positive impact on productivity, quality and efficiency.

Cargill, Mars, Inc., Nestle and other companies involved in cocoa production and marketing recently partnered with Utz Certified to establish a sustainability program for cocoa. Mars has committed to purchase 100,000 tonnes of Utz Certified cocoa annually by 2020.

Two cocoa farmer cooperatives in the Ivory Coast became the first certified under the Utz Certified cocoa sustainability program earlier this month. Co-operative Agricole de Fiedifoue and Coopaga received the certificates after working with Cargill and Solidaridad, both founding members of the Utz Certified cocoa program. The eight-month program trained 1,590 farmers in responsible and sustainable agriculture practices. The first Utz Certified sustainable "Good Inside" cocoa should be available by the end of this year.

"For many years we have run training programs for farmers believing it is the best way to bring sustainability, in all senses of the word, into the supply chain," said Harold Poelma, managing director of Cargill, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. "This certification endorses our belief in the importance of sustainable agricultural practices and is a great achievement by the farmers and the cooperatives."

The Ivory Coast produces more than 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. Cargill manufactures such cocoa products as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor and industrial chocolate. Cargill works with partners from industry, governments, non-governmental organizations and local communities while supporting efforts to help farmers adopt sustainable agricultural management practices.

Barry Callebaut produces a range of certified chocolate products that comply with Fairtrade, organic, kosher and other standards, Ms. Werner said.

"Today’s consumers are increasingly savvy and are more interested than ever in knowing where the food they eat comes from and how it’s produced," Ms. Werner said. "Having said that, food and beverage manufacturers can place themselves ahead of the game by launching new products that incorporate ingredients produced in a sustainable manner and that meet their customers’ specific needs."

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, September 29, 2009, starting on Page 21. Click here to search that archive.

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