Rainforest Alliance (RA) stands by its guidelines allowing manufacturers to carry its seal when sourcing just 30% certified cocoa for a product line.
Manufactures must pledge to scale-up to 100%, but in the meantime an individual chocolate bar with the RA logo may contain only limited amounts of RA cocoa that ensures fair working conditions for farmers.
Fairtrade International in contrast only allows manufacturers to carry its logo when companies commit to sourcing 100% Fairtrade cocoa for a product line.
Cocoa bean mixing throughout the supply chain could further limit the level of certified cocoa in an RA-labeled final product. (See HERE )
Responding to questions from ConfectioneryNews.com, Stuart Singleton-White, senior manager external communications at Rainforest Alliance, said “We do not mislead consumers. Nor do we allow companies that carry our seal on their products to do so.“
RA allows its seal on a chocolate product when the manufacturer has sourced 30% of the cocoa for that product from Rainforest Alliance certified farms, but also makes a commitment to scale up to 100%. The timeframe is usually five years, but can be negotiated. See guidelines HERE.
Farmers still benefiting, says RA
“30% of 10,000 tons of a commodity can have a larger impact that 100% of 1,000 tons, and the farmers receive 100% of the benefit, so it’s a good starting point,” said Singleton-White.
He added that 30% levels would only be permitted if a company was fully transparent about the amount of certified ingredient in the product.
“We never allow them to claim the cocoa in a particular bar has come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms unless it has been sourced under the full traceability system, and we insist they place a url on their product and that url links to a website that gives a full explanation of their sourcing policy,” he continued.
Major confectioners such as Mars, Ferrero and Hershey have committed to sourcing 100% certified cocoa by 2020 and are using multiple certifiers to reach their goals.
Rainforest Alliance cocoa can become mixed with cocoa from uncertified farms during the supply chain – but it can also be mixed with cocoa from other certifiers such as Fairtrade or UTZ certified.
How then do manufacturers determine which certificate to use on product labels?
“The choice of which certification system to use is a matter for the company,” said Singleton-White.
“It would be technically possible for a product to contain a mix of beans from farms working with different certification schemes, but if they are using Rainforest Alliance cocoa beans then that has to be done under our controlled blending policy which means the beans can be traced from the farm to the factory where the product is produced. “