Last October Hershey, Pennsylvania-based Hershey Company revealed their plans to a global commitment of having 100 percent certified cocoa beans by 2020.
Additionally, at the start of 2013 all of Hershey’s Bliss Chocolates are to be made with cocoa beans sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Farms that are certified through the Rainforest Alliance are ecological farms that support safe farming conditions for farmers and their families.
According to Andy McCormick, VP of cocoa sustainability for Hershey, 5 percent of the world market currently uses certified cocoa ingredients. This sustainability plan will help the expansion of certified cocoa gain momentum throughout the chocolate industry.
Emerging market trends around the world is one of the main driving factors for this cocoa initiative. Hershey is expanding business in places like China, India and Brazil.
“I think this is a very unique moment in history where we have these emerging middle classes around the world and the potential to make chocolate available to vast populations that chocolate hasn’t been available to before,” says Frank Day, VP of global commodities for Hershey. “We can deliver chocolate to many people around the world that haven’t had it before and create the demand for the cocoa farmers in West Africa and Indonesia and South America and the only way those cocoa farmers are going to be able to meet that demand is they’ve got to become better.”
“They’ve got to become productive, professional, cocoa farmers,” says Day, “and along the way have a much better livelihood for themselves and their families.”
Consumer interest in where and how cocoa products are sourced is an ongoing trend that influences the movement towards certified cocoa.
Additionally, another driving factor behind this sustainability initiative is to help increase the output and productivity of cocoa farmers, particularly focusing in on West Africa.
Increasing Farmer Productivity
Hershey has been procuring cocoa beans from West Africa for over 50 years; additionally, two thirds of their cocoa originates from West Africa. Roughly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa currently comes from West and Central Africa.
Hershey has invested in various sustainability programs to increase West African farmer productivity with the intention of improving farmers’ economic health and quality of life. The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which has about 115 members from the cocoa sector, works to further cocoa sustainability.
“We know it’s very feasible to increase farmer productivity by 50 percent,” says McCormick. “By doing that the farmers will have greater income and cocoa farming will be a more attractive business.”
To help boost farmer output by 50 percent, McCormick suggests the following methods:
1) Farmers should have access to fertilizers and pesticides;
2) Farmers should be educated on how to apply fertilizers and pesticides safely and productively;
3) Farmers should modernize their techniques and harvesting methodologies; and
4) Farmers should have access to modern information on farming practices.
In order to give farmers access to modern information, Hershey developed a program in 2011 called CocoaLink, which sends messages that promote sustainable farming practices through SMS messages and voice messaging in local languages.
“Today [January 30, 2013], we’ve sent about 250,000 SMS messages in Ghana,” says McCormick. “We have about 15,000 registered farmers and about 60,000 people benefiting from the program. In 2013 we will be expanding that program into the Ivory Coast.”