The Hershey Co. plans to invest more than $10 million over five years into programs to reduce child labor and improve farming communities in West African cocoa-producing countries, as well as begin buying certified, sustainable cocoa for its products, it today announced.
"(The investment) helps address long-term cocoa trends to make sure supply will continue to meet the world demands," said Andy McCormick, Hershey's vice president of public affairs.
Later this year, the Dauphin County-based chocolate maker will source all of its cocoa for its Bliss and Dagoba products from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms. The New York-based nonprofit certifies farms that produce environmentally sustainable cocoa in ways ensuring the safety and well-being of workers, families and communities, according to Hershey.
Groups advocating for better social conditions in West Africa have been pressing Hershey for years to follow other chocolate manufacturers buying certified sustainably produced cocoa.
Only about 2 percent of cocoa bought and used in the U.S. is certified sustainable, but that amount is growing steadily, McCormick said. Certified cocoa purchases are projected to hit 20 million by 2020, he said. It could expand certified purchases in the future depending on the market and program success, he said.
Hershey felt it was the right time to begin buying, but there needs to be a market for uncertified cocoa, too, McCormick said.
That's why the company is ramping up other programs to promote broad use of sustainable practices, including: