Kraft Foods said its premium dark chocolate range is the first to carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, showing it contains cocoa from farms that meet the sustainability standard.
The global manufacturer said it has also committed to increase current purchases of cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance certified farms ten-fold by the end of 2012, to 30,000 tonnes.
The company said its sustainably sourced Cote d'Or premium dark chocolate will initially be rolled out to consumers in France and Belgium, and, over the coming months, the certified range will be available in the UK, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Canada and the US.
The company said the certified range will also be made available in Sweden, Denmark and Finland under the Marabou brand and under the Suchard brand in Austria and Switzerland.
A spokesperson for Kraft told ConfectioneryNews.com that while the company would like to ensure all of its chocolate brands used sustainably sourced cocoa, the current limited availability of cocoa from certified farms prevented this.
"This is just the first step in our broader sustainability commitment to help secure high quality cocoa for the longer term," she added.
Edward Millard, director for sustainable landscapes at the Rainforest Alliance, said that companies across the whole supply chain, from cocoa processors to chocolate manufacturers, are now showing real interest in certification.
“The heightened commitment from Kraft, our original cocoa collaborator, and a new commitment from Mars, to source 100,000 tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa each year by 2020, are both indicative of an increasing level of interest industry-wide,” he added.
Kraft said that, since 2005, it has been working with the Rainforest Alliance and leading development organizations in Germany and the US as well as with the cocoa trader, Armajaro to support sustainable cocoa production in the Ivory Coast.
Millard said that the collaboration has enabled six Ivorian cooperatives, representing over 2000 farmers in the Daloa/Issia and Abengourou areas, to gain the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.
He said that the results have been encouraging, with the last crop year showing improved yields and significant productivity gains, in some cases above 50 per cent, while the incidence of cocoa 'black pod' disease was also reduced by one third and farmer incomes improved.