While Halloween usually gets the most attention as a candy-loving holiday, Easter is not far behind. Every year, the candy industry sells about $2.1 billion worth of candy during this spring holiday. That’s about 120 million pounds of treats for the Easter Bunny to hide annually. The problem is that cocoa is an ingredient often used in much of that candy. In fact, 90 million chocolate bunnies alone are made every year for Easter.
Cocoa has become a problematic ingredient in candy because of how it is grown. The plants need to be in rainforest-like environments where they receive plenty of water, at a specific temperature with just the right amount of shade.
These growing requirements pose a problem for the environment because traditional farming methods contribute to deforestation. For example, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana produce a significant amount of the world’s cocoa, but they also have one of the largest deforestation rates. Since the decline of forests can impact carbon emissions and contribute to climate change, chocolate producers are looking to solve this sticky situation.
Mondelēz, the company that produces Oreos, has announced that it will only use sustainable cocoa in its signature cookies as of this month. They will use cocoa from sustainable farmers through its cocoa sourcing program, Cocoa Life. The company is hoping this route will help them quickly scale their eco-friendly sourcing efforts.
Cocoa Life was established to help farmers produce cocoa in more eco-friendly ways. To do so, the organization teaches sustainable agricultural practices which work to fight climate change. Through this approach, they focus on increasing cocoa yields while monitoring and restoring degraded forests.
The program also helps communities tailor their own plans to improve their small business while protecting the surrounding ecosystems. Cocoa Life plans to invest $400 million in the next few years and help thousands of cocoa farmers. The organization works with six mains cocoa-growing regions which include Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Indonesia, India, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil.
Since it was launched in 2012, the program has proved to be successful in creating a sustainable cocoa supply chain. As of last year, Cocoa Life already helped 120,500 cocoa farmers in 1085 communities.
To mark the company’s shift toward sustainable ingredients, Mondelēz will be stamping its Oreo packs with the Cocoa Life logo. According to FoodBev, Caton explains why this is a good move for eco-conscious shoppers, saying, “independent assessments show that we are having a genuine impact and seeing the Cocoa Life logo on the front of packs will give consumers the confidence that whenever they buy an OREO product they are making a real difference to people’s lives.”
While upgrading the ingredients in Oreos is only one step towards implementing environmentally friendly policies, Mondelēz plans to use cocoa from sustainable farmers in its entire product range in the near future.