Fairtrade delivers 300,000-strong petition to KitKat factory in York, as certification row continues

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Fairtrade Yorkshire members deliver their petition to Nestlé’s York factory, home of the KitKat bar. Pic: Fairtrade Yorkshire
Fairtrade Yorkshire members deliver their petition to Nestlé’s York factory, home of the KitKat bar. Pic: Fairtrade Yorkshire

Related tags Fairtrade cocoa Nestlé Kitkat

Chocolate fans voice concerns over Nestlé’s move away from buying Fairtrade cocoa and sugar – but multi-national food giant says petition contains a number of inaccuracies.

A group of Fairtrade campaigners has delivered a petition with 300,000 signatures to Nestlé York in protest at the firm’s decision to end sourcing cocoa and sugar on Fairtrade terms for its KitKat bars​.

Over one billion KitKats are produced every year in York and Nestlé reportedly turned a profit of more than $10bn globally last year.

With its slogan ‘Have a Break, Have a KitKat’, the chocolate bar has been a flagship Fairtrade product for 10 years, and the partnership has resulted in significant impact for tens of thousands of small scale farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and beyond in that time - including providing much-needed recent support for communities in response to Covid-19.

Fairtrade Premium payments

Losing the Faitrade status means farmers will no longer receive approximately £1.37m of Fairtrade Premium payments every year and will have less control over how they spend their money under the new deal they have been offered. Sugar farmers will also lose over £500,000 of annual Fairtrade Premium payments.  

Joanna Pollard, Coordinator of Fairtrade Yorkshire, said: “As soon as I heard the news that KitKats would no longer be Fairtrade, I knew this would be devastating for thousands of farmers. Under the Fairtrade system, they have a seat at the table and make their own decisions about where their money is spent. The farmers I’ve spoken to feel that selling their crop on Fairtrade terms is vital for their communities. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the petition has had from almost 300,000 people all over the world, and reading their reasons for signing, it’s clear that they want to take a stand in support of farmers​.”

Nestlé announced in June this year it was switching to The Rainforest Alliance’s cocoa certification programme instead of using Fairtrade.

'False premise'

A spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews:“This petition, which has been circulating since June, carries a number of inaccuracies that we have tried to correct with the petition starter but to no avail. It means that many of those who signed the petition in good faith did so on the basis of a false premise.

“We would ask anybody who has signed this petition to look at the mission of the Rainforest Alliance and the work we are doing through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. It all serves to underline that we want to help further improve the lives of cocoa farmers through a number of different initiatives and by increasing our overall investment in sustainable cocoa.

“As of 1 October, all of our cocoa in the UK & Ireland will be certified by the Rainforest Alliance, bringing these two KitKat products into line with the rest of Nestlé’s confectionery range. Before we made this decision and throughout our notice period with Fairtrade, we have listened carefully to farmers. We have used their input to create a comprehensive package to support their needs through the transition. We now have a solid and consistent platform to make cocoa more sustainable and, ultimately, that’s what everybody wants to achieve.

“Meanwhile, we continue to work closely with Fairtrade elsewhere in our portfolio where we believe the partnership helps us reach the right outcomes.”

Widespread support

The Fairtrade Yorkshire petition has also received widespread support from MPs, including Rachael Maskell, whose York Central constituency is home to the Nestlé factory and Holly Lynch, Chair of the Fairtrade All Party Parliamentary Group and Labour MP for Halifax; and organisations including Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Fair Trade Wales, CAFOD, NUS, BAFTS, Fair Trade Network UK, Tearfund, Commitment for Life, National Campaigner Committee, and Fairtrade Yorkshire.

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