Chocolate – Response to BBC You & Yours Radio 4 Programme

On Thursday 13 September, the Fairtrade Foundation took part in a Radio 4 You & Yours programme discussing the traceability of cocoa in Fairtrade chocolate. 

Fairtrade puts farmers first

The FAIRTRADE Mark on a product means that farmers and workers in developing countries are getting a better deal from trade, including internationally agreed Fairtrade prices and premiums.

For a product to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark on the front of its packaging, any ingredient that can be Fairtrade must be traded on Fairtrade terms. For a chocolate bar this means 100% of the volume of cocoa and sugar (and any other eligible ingredient) must have been purchased on Fairtrade terms, which includes additional Fairtrade premiums paid to farmers of $200 per tonne of cocoa and $60 per tonne of sugar, which they invest in programmes to improve their own lives and local communities.

Most Fairtrade products are fully traceable

For most Fairtrade products including bananas, other fresh fruits, coffee, flowers, nuts, rice, spices and more, a review of our trading standards in 2009 introduced new, stronger rules into the Fairtrade system, requiring these products to be physically traceable. This means they must be labelled and kept separate at every stage of their journey from the farmers groups to the shop shelves.

However, when we attempted to introduce similar rules for cocoa and sugar used in chocolate, we discovered that there is very little physical traceability in the way the chocolate industry works. Cocoa and sugar are routinely mixed in local mills, factories or at the point of shipping, and complex processes of manufacturing make it very difficult and costly to separate ingredients at every stage of the supply chain. It became clear that simply introducing rules requiring immediate physical traceability could prevent some producers in developing countries from being able to participate in Fairtrade. It could also result in pricing Fairtrade products out of the market altogether, and restrict the ability of companies to engage with Fairtrade or invest to a significant degree in improving farmer livelihoods. Given the depth of poverty experienced by many small scale cocoa and sugar growers, and the urgency of their need for better terms of trade, we agreed we needed to find a different solution.


Fairtrade cocoa and sugar are traced through the supply chain
During the consultation with farmers’ groups and traders on Fairtrade standards, it was agreed that, in the interests of being able to facilitate Fairtrade market access for cocoa and sugar producer groups, these products should be exempt from physical traceability. You can read more about this decision, and why these products are exempted on Fairtrade International’s website here.

Instead, Fairtrade operates a programme of traceability known as ‘mass balance’, whereby, even though these beans may be being mixed with others during the manufacture process, the actual volumes of cocoa and sugar sales on Fairtrade terms are tracked and audited through the supply chain. This process ensures that the amount of these ingredients in the final product is matched by the amount sold by the farmers, and that the full benefits of Fairtrade are therefore received by the farmers.

Rules for how mass balance ingredients are communicated on the back of food product packaging have changed in February 2012. In the case of chocolate, products must carry the statement Cocoa, Sugar: traded in compliance with Fairtrade Standards. Visit All new and redesigned food products must comply with this messaging and licensees have 24 months to change their packaging to accordingly

Farmers receive 100% of the benefits of Fairtrade

This means that consumers can buy Fairtrade products confident in the knowledge that the full benefits – the better deal – of the Fairtrade system are being received by the producers. In the case of Cadbury Dairy Milk, for example, going Fairtrade did not increase the price for consumers, but has still delivered more than $6 million in additional Fairtrade premiums by farmers in West Africa as a result of Fairtrade conversion in late 2009.

Fairtrade is facilitating greater transparency and traceability

We recognise that for consumers there is a wish to see greater traceability from farmers to the products they buy, and we share this vision of connecting producers and consumers in a common vision of fairer global trade. We believe that Fairtrade products offer a clear step forward from conventional trade in enabling products to be tracked and audited back to certified farmer organisations, and additional benefits including payment of Fairtrade premiums.

Fully traceable Fairtrade chocolate is available too

Many Fairtrade products do however go further than this. We are proud that many companies offering Fairtrade chocolate, such as the 100% Fairtrade company Divine Chocolate and organic Fairtrade brands (such Green & Blacks, Seed & Bean), offer greater physically traceability, and shoppers wanting this additional degree of traceability can therefore choose these brands. However, even where the original Fairtrade certified cocoa beans have been mixed during manufacture, consumers can still be sure that our rigorous certification system ensures that 100% of the Fairtrade benefit is received by the farmers groups.


For more information visit  or contact Elen Jones on 07912 496044 or email