Cocoa – Sustainability | Mars, Incorporated




We need to begin with the individual farmers who make up the industry. To increase their yields and incomes, we need to help provide better access to improved planting materials, fertilizers and best-practices training. Our work in Indonesia and West Africa is a good start — we’ve shown that this kind of support can help farmers to triple their yields in three to five years. This not only boosts supplies, but it also helps farmers lift their families up financially and gain access to essential services like education and health care.

To promote our approach around the world, our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative works across three areas to put farmers first:

  • Reaching as many farmers as possible by certifying our entire cocoa supply and encouraging others in our industry to commit to certification
  • Improving cocoa breeding, farming methods and protection against pests and disease by conducting breakthrough research
  • Giving farmers the knowledge and technology they need to triple their yields by investing in critical cocoa-sourcing regions

Find out more about our approach to cocoa challenges. »


In 2016, more than 50 percent of the cocoa we use came from certified sources. Using certified cocoa helps improve the livelihoods of farmers and helps to protect the environment.

But we know that women are often excluded from cocoa growing communities and have limited access to land, training and finance. That’s why we’re working with CARE International to empower women in cocoa through access to finance and training – just one of the many ways we’re helping to build a sustainable cocoa supply chain.  



“The Mars Cocoa Sustainability Team has given me the knowledge and the access to brand new technologies, which allow me to earn more for my family.”
Laodi, a cocoa farmer in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Not only has Laodi broadened his skills through training, he’s now passing them on to other farmers in the area. Laodi has become a Cocoa Doctor for his village, and started his own nursery to distribute high quality cocoa seeds and seedlings in his community.


  • We are currently the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations: UTZ, the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International.
  • In 2010, Mars signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Minister of Agriculture of Côte D'Ivoire, which allows us to work directly with the Ivorian government on productivity projects for farmers.
  • We work together with anyone in the chocolate industry who shares our view and is willing to work with us, including competitors. We have signed MoUs with cocoa suppliers Barry-Callebaut and ECOM to expand our programs in Côte d'Ivoire, and congratulated Ferrero and Hershey on becoming the second and third major manufacturers, respectively, to commit to 100 percent certified cocoa.
  • To benefit farmers, we’ve invested heavily in breakthrough science like mapping the cocoa genome. We were happy to release the results into the public domain so they could be used by everyone to develop better breeding practices and lead to healthier, more productive trees for farmers.    
  • To educate farmers on best agricultural practices, we built 17 Cocoa Development Centers in Côte d’Ivoire, four with the help of our friends at ECOM and Barry-Callebaut. We have also selected the first five Cocoa Village Clinics operators in Soubré.


More than five million farmers in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas are responsible for growing most of the world’s cacao. These farmers continually struggle with unproductive, aging cacao trees they cannot afford to replace. In some places, their yields, incomes and quality of life are in decline.

See more about the challenges of cocoa sustainability. »


Certification is the best tool we in the cocoa industry have to provide farmers worldwide with consistent and continued support. Our cocoa certification practices aim to go beyond our existing activities by introducing new productivity measures that will help make sure certification directly increases growers’ incomes.

The first UTZ-certified cocoa from Indonesia was produced in August 2010 — an encouraging result of our certification advocacy. We continue to develop new cacao-growing regions in Asia, including by purchasing UTZ-certified cocoa from Vietnam.

Fairtrade is more than just a logo to us. MALTESERS® is the third biggest confectionery brand in the UK, and all of the products under it 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. We are looking for opportunities to scale up our use of Fairtrade certification in the longer term to help us accomplish our 2020 target.

Learn more about cocoa sustainability certification. »


Cacao farmers produce just 10 percent of the output they could achieve under perfect conditions with best practices. By contrast, corn production has reached 60 percent of its theoretical yield. Typically funded by governments, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cacao cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little research or funding. It’s our duty to help boost the productivity of the farmers we depend on by encouraging greater funding into cacao research.

Our 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, biodiversity-rich environments and land rehabilitation.

One of our proudest accomplishments is our collaboration with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center, during which we unraveled the sequencing of cocoa genomes. Since then, scientists worldwide have used that work to develop more resilient and higher yielding cocoa crops.

“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

Discover more about cocoa research. »


To achieve the greatest benefits for the largest number of farmers, Mars Chocolate is building Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) in several cocoa-growing regions of Asia and West Africa. We’re working with international donor agencies, governments and other groups to provide farmers with the tools, techniques and training to cultivate high-quality yields. Farmers can use planting materials from CDCs to establish Cocoa Village Clinics — local nurseries that help with the commercial distribution of cocoa plants and provide an additional source of income.

We want to reach 150,000 farmers in the Côte d'Ivoire by 2020. Under our Vision for Change program, we hope to help at least this portion of the country’s 750,000 total farmers triple their yields to up to 1.5 tons per hectare.

Cocoa Sustainability Infograph

By 2020, we aim to have 100 percent of the cocoa that we buy be certified.