Mars Chocolate, one of the world's leading chocolate manufacturers, announced today that it has made significant progress in just three years towards fulfilling its 2009 pledge to purchase its entire cocoa supply from certified sustainable sources by 2020. The company stated that it had met its 2011 goal of purchasing 10% of its total cocoa supply as certified sustainable, and in 2012 it will exceed its original target of 20%, making it the largest user of certified cocoa in the world. Based on current buying arrangements, the company projects that they will purchase nearly 90,000 tons of certified cocoa.

Mars believes certification is the best tool industry has to support effective extension services to reach as many of the world's 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers as possible and provide them with the material support and organization they need to be successful.

Estimating that demand for cocoa will outstrip global supply by one million tons by 2020, Mars Chocolate has developed a comprehensive strategy to manage this challenge under the guiding principle of putting cocoa farmers first. Mars' Sustainable Cocoa Initiative is one of the largest, most far-reaching efforts within the cocoa industry to increase productivity, strengthen communities, and encourage better farmer incomes.

"We are pleased to have reached another critical milestone in our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative," says Barry Parkin, global procurement and sustainability head for Mars Chocolate. "A successful certification program is so important to our effort because it is the most effective tool we currently have to reach millions of cocoa farmers at scale. It took a lot of hard work from farmers, certifiers, and others along the supply chain to meet this milestone, and we are pleased to see their energy paying off."

In 2011, Mars' cocoa purchases were certified according to the Rainforest Alliance's and UTZ Certified's standards. Last year, Mars announced it will be partnering with Fairtrade International, and purchases of Fairtrade cocoa began in 2012. Currently, six Mars products worldwide are labeled through the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified. Since the company's primary goal is to reach 100% certification by 2020 and encourage more industry commitments to buy larger volumes of certified cocoa, Mars will purchase certified cocoa for all products by 2020, even though some products may not be explicitly labeled.

Mars Chocolate is focusing on three distinct, critical elements with the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative: cocoa science research, including mapping the cocoa genome in conjunction with IBM and the US Department of Agriculture; the transfer of technology and agricultural methods to encourage productivity among cocoa farmers, especially through the company's Vision for Change program in Cote d'Ivoire; and third-party certification. Mars Chocolate is the only large global chocolate manufacturer to work with the three leading certification organizations, the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, and UTZ Certified.

"Certification has great potential to benefit hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cocoa farmers," says Andy Harner, global cocoa vice president for Mars Chocolate. "However, to be truly meaningful, certification must bring industry together to prioritize real change at the farm level ahead of all other interests. We are truly grateful to our certification partners the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and Fairtrade International for sharing this vision and for the commitments they have made to putting cocoa farmers first."