The confectioner said the switch is part of the initial phase of an agreement with Fairtrade, and concerns only the UK and Ireland markets, where Fairtrade is well established.
Mars added that the certified Maltesers brand will contribute more than US$1m annually in Fairtrade Premium funds for cocoa farmers, in this instance, growers based mainly in the Ivory Coast.
Fairtrade said that the sugar and vanilla ingredients used in the new Maltesers range are Fairtrade sourced as well.
More on-pack labels?
A spokesperson for the confectioner told FoodNavigator.com that while Mars has no specific plans to extend the Fairtrade standard to its other brands, it will be exploring ways to increase its purchases of Fairtrade cocoa alongside its UTZ and Rainforest Alliance initiatives. "This is only the first stage in our relationship with Fairtrade," he added.
Mars is aiming to meet a pledge to certify 100% of the cocoa its buys as sustainably produced: “This may or may not include additional on-pack labels, but by 2020, all products will contain certified cocoa,” added the spokesperson.
When asked why it has taken so long for Mars to enter into an agreement with Fairtrade, the spokesperson commented: "We have always been open to any partnership that we felt met our ambitious principles and would produce tangible benefits for farmers. As we looked forward to how we would achieve our commitment to certify 100% of cocoa as sustainably produced by 2020, Fairtrade was a natural choice to increase both the scale of our commitment as well as the potential positive impacts for farmers.”
The Mars representative added that currently only a small portion of the world’s cocoa is certified as sustainably produced, and many of the systems in place now “weren’t designed to operate at a large global scale.”
Current annual world production of cocoa is around 3.5 million metric tonnes, and by 2020 the chocolate confectionery industry will need at least 4.5 million mt.
To satisfy demand, Fairtrade stresses that cocoa farmers need industry support to invest in overcoming the challenges of ageing cocoa trees, low productivity and lack of confidence in cocoa farming among the young. As of 2009, certified cocoa represented just over 1% of total purchases.
Confectionery industry take-up
Cadbury and Nestle went Fairtrade on their Dairy Milk and Kit Kat brands respectively in the past few years. In response to a query as to whether there is enough certified cocoa available to support other brands making the switch, Reykia Fick, a spokesperson for Fairtrade International, told this publication that:
“Currently, there is more Fairtrade cocoa produced than bought. That was why Mars was able to do a relatively quick turnaround for Maltesers.”
She hopes the Mars’ commitment will spur other brand owners to purchase more Fairtrade cocoa. “We will continue to work on concrete measures to allow more confectioners make the switch,” said Fick.
The Mars spokersperson explained that it and the Fairtrade organisation will examine how to improve efficiency in the supply chain to ensure the availability of larger volumes of certified cocoa so that more companies can scale up their use of Fairtrade cocoa.
Ildiko Szalai, food industry analyst at Euromonitor International, said that in the UK consumer demand for Fairtrade chocolate has been driven by intense manufacturer activity, particularly from Cadbury through its Green & Black's and Cadbury Dairy Milk ranges. "At the same time more and more private label Fairtrade chocolate confectionery lines have further bolstered retail sales in both value and volume terms," she notes.
Szalai estimates that over the medium to long term the expansion of the Fairtrade chocolate market will be driven by greater awareness of ethical food items in developed markets and intense promotional activity from mainstream manufacturers such as Cadbury and Nestlé to support their existing product lines.