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Most of the world’s cocoa is grown by more than five million smallholder farmers in parts of West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. These farmers continually struggle with unproductive, aging cocoa trees they cannot afford to replace. Their yields, incomes and quality of life are in decline.

Meanwhile, the chocolate industry continues to grow. By 2020, demand for cocoa could outstrip supply by more than one million tonnes unless something is done now to boost production.

We believe that securing cocoa’s future against rising demand and greater economic and environmental pressures begins with enabling farmers to increase their yields and, by extension, their incomes. 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 per hectare. Our work in Indonesia and West Africa has shown that this kind of support can help farmers to triple their yields in three to five years. This not only boosts supplies, it also helps farmers lift their families out of poverty and access 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.

There is a summary of our work in these three areas below, and more information on our cocoa sustainability website and at

Major Accomplishments towards Sustainable Cocoa

  • In 2009, Mars 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 which 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 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 tonnes 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.


Certification gives some insight into conditions in our supply chain, but more importantly it is currently the best tool the cocoa industry has to provide farmers worldwide with consistent and continued support. Our cocoa certification practices aim to go beyond existing activities by introducing productivity measures that will ensure certification directly increases growers’ incomes.

We were the first global chocolate company to commit to sourcing only certified cocoa, and we will do so by 2020. We intend to buy a minimum of 100,000 tonnes of certified cocoa annually from both Rainforest Alliance certifiedTM and UTZ certified supplies.

As a result of our work to encourage greater levels of certification throughout the global cocoa industry, the first UTZ-certified cocoa from Indonesia was produced in August 2010. We continue to develop new cocoa-growing regions in Asia and have also purchased UTZ- certified cocoa from Vietnam.

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


“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re doing the right thing by helping farmers like Yao, who can now buy the fertilizer he needs to fortify his crop. It’s mutuality at its best.”
Manuel Salazar,
Mars Chocolate Associate and Mars Ambassador Program participant

Read more about Manuel’s experience in Cote d’Ivoire, and his work on a program that provides cheap loans so cocoa farmers can buy fertilizer and increase their yields

Typically funded by government, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cocoa cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little research or funding, given its importance. 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 yield.

We fund and lead innovative research programs that will increase understanding of how to improve cocoa quality and yields and better control pests and disease. Our investment in this area will ultimately help increase growers’ productivity and incomes.

This work is led by 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.

Our collaboration with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center resulted in Mars publicly releasing the sequence of the cocoa genome so scientists worldwide can use it to develop more resilient and higher yielding cocoa crops. See the case study for more details.

Technology Transfer

To achieve the greatest benefits for the largest number of farmers, 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 others. These centers provide farmers with the tools, techniques and training to cultivate high-quality yields. 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

By 2020, our Vision for Change program aims to reach 150,000 of Côte d'Ivoire's 750,000 farmers and triple their yields to up to 1.5 tonnes per hectare.

In 2010, Mars signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Côte d’Ivoire as the cornerstone of our commitment to collaboration and investment. Under Vision for Change, we are setting up 25 Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) 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 CDCs to reach 100,000 more farmers. Seventeen CDCs had been created by the end of 2012, including four built by our collaborators, ECOM and Barry-Callebaut. See our cocoa sustainability website for full details.

We have developed a strategy and methodology for monitoring the performance of the CDCs, and have gathered baseline data. This will enable us to measure the effectiveness of our direct interventions.

Mars cocoa sustainability infographic

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