In a move that we hope other confectioners will follow, Mars Bars in the UK and Ireland will be made with Fairtrade certified cocoa.
The move, unveiled ahead of the annual Fairtrade fortnight beginning next week, makes Mars the first UK company to commit to Fairtrade's new cocoa sourcing programme, to give farmers more opportunities to boost their livelihoods.
The programme aims to help farmers sell more of their cocoa on Fairtrade terms, giving them a fair price for their product and a premium to invest in improving their incomes and lives, and to connect them more directly with companies that will support them.
Farming co-operatives in the Cote d'Ivoire will be the first to benefit from the partnership with Mars, with expert support and investment of the premiums in boosting productivity including training, fertilisers and higher yield and disease resistant crops.
Mars Bars that use Fairtrade cocoa will appear in stores in the UK and Ireland from October 2015.
The commitment, which follows on from Fairtrade certification for Maltesers in 2012 and a partnership in Germany for Twix, means globally Mars will be paying premiums of £1.3 million a year to cocoa co-operatives in West Africa by 2016, the company said.
Mike Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: "We're entering a new era in Fairtrade's work with cocoa farmers in West Africa, increasingly connecting forward-looking businesses like Mars more directly to entrepreneurial cocoa co-operatives who themselves want to be at the forefront of product quality, productivity and rural community improvement.
"Cocoa farmers constantly tell us they're anxious to sell more of their crops on Fairtrade terms, and we know how it can start to change their lives when they receive fairer rewards for their efforts.
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"That's why we launched the Fairtrade cocoa sourcing programme, and to have Mars leading the way is fantastic news, both here in the UK and on the ground with cocoa co-operatives in Cote d'Ivoire."
Blas Maquivar, president of Mars Chocolate UK, said he was proud that Mars Bars were at the forefront of the cocoa sourcing programme.
"It's a crucial next step in our global commitment to certify that 100% of our cocoa has been produced in a sustainable manner by 2020 and it means that all three of our top UK chocolate brands now source certified cocoa, supporting farmers to improve productivity and yields and ultimately leading to improved income and better quality of life for farmers, their families and their communities.
"This partnership brings us one step closer to sustainable, ethically sourced cocoa becoming the norm in the chocolate industry."