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HERSHEY, Pa. and MT. OLIVE, N.J. — Mars Chocolate North America and The Hershey Co. both announced significant benchmarks in their respective sustainability efforts.
As the industry starts to see a need to produce edible peanuts that reflect consumers’ desire for a high-quality, shelf-stable nut, Mars Chocolate has molded its initiative around the use of high-oleic acid peanuts (HOAPs). In 2014, the company reported that 51 percent of the peanuts used for its U.S. products were HOAPs to keep pace with the increasing product demand.
Mars Chocolate is committed to using 100 percent HOAPs in its products by 2017. The company outlined three main elements of its initiative: support of crop improvement and breeding; expanding supply and the use of HOAPs in places where peanuts are grown; and developing quality and food safety — especially in managing the aflatoxin contamination, a toxin that can contaminate peanuts.
In addition, the company has invested more than $1.4 million to support the efforts of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, a group of crop geneticists that includes representatives from Mars. In April 2014, this group reached a significant milestone when it achieved its goal of mapping the peanut genome. Now, the wild peanut genome sequence will be available to researchers around the world to assist in the breeding of more productive peanut varieties that are resistant to diseases.
“We are seeing more and more U.S. peanut farmers committing themselves to ensuring the sustainability of edible peanuts by planting HOAPs, and we are encouraged by it,” said Anne-Marie DeLorenzo, strategic sourcing manager of peanuts for Mars Chocolate. “The industry recognizes a need to work with farmers to grow peanut varieties that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the crop by keeping peanuts competitive, free of disease and satisfying to consumers.”
Edible peanuts are one of Mars Chocolate’s foundational ingredients and are a critical component to two of the company’s most popular products worldwide: M&M’S Peanut Chocolate Candies and Snickers.
Hershey is also making great strides in its commitment to sustainable cocoa. The company announced it will source enough certified and sustainable cocoa in 2016 to surpass the amount of cocoa required for the global production of four of its most popular chocolate brands: Hershey’s, Kisses, Kit Kat and Brookside.
Earlier this year, Hershey set a target to source at least 50 percent of its global cocoa supply from certified and sustainable sources by 2015 — a full year ahead of its original schedule. Hershey has committed to source 100 percent certified and sustainable cocoa by 2020.
“While sustainable, certified cocoa is just part of our responsible sourcing efforts, the fact that we will source enough for these major Hershey brands in the fourth year of our certified cocoa commitment demonstrates the urgency with which we have pursued this commitment”, said Terry O’Day, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer.
A key part of Hershey’s sustainable cocoa initiatives is its Hershey Learn to Grown farm training program in West Africa, where two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is grown. In the past two years, the program has expanded in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. Through the program, farmers receive training on good agricultural practices, social practices with a focus on labor, good environmental and business practices, and information about other food crops such as cassava and plantain.
By 2019, Hershey expects to train more than 60,000 West African cocoa farmers through Learn to Grow, including 23,000 farmers in Ghana.
Also under its sustainability efforts, Hershey has pledged that it will source enough certified and sustainable cocoa to add the global Reese’s brand and others in 2017.