Mars on Cocoa Sustainability

Mars Principles In Action


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.

Mars 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.


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.

Mars were the first global chocolate company to commit to sourcing only certified cocoa, and Mars will do so by 2020. Mars 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. Mars 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. Mars are seeking opportunities to scale up our use of Fairtrade certification in the longer term to help us accomplish our 2020 target.

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“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.

Mars 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.

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