From July 1, 2020, the Rainforest Alliance will expand full mutual recognition to coffee, vanilla and herbal infusions (including rooibos), adding to the cocoa, tea and hazelnut mutual recognition launched in July 2019. This means that companies at the end of the supply chain for these crops will be able to source Rainforest Alliance Certified or UTZ certified ingredients (or a mixture of both), and then use either the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or UTZ label on pack, in accordance with the corresponding labeling rules.
This is in addition to the Chain of Custody Mutual Recognition that has been in place since December 2018, which allows companies to purchase both UTZ certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified ingredients while only having to be audited for one of the current Chain of Custody standards.
In preparation for mutual recognition, our volume-based royalties/fees for all of these crops will be aligned between the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs by July 1, 2020. For coffee, the royalty will be aligned at the current Rainforest Alliance program rate. For cocoa we aligned at a level between the two current programs, and for tea we aligned at the Rainforest Alliance royalty level. For rooibos and herbal infusion ingredients, we will match the UTZ program fee, which means a new royalty for sellers of Rainforest Alliance Certified herbals. And for vanilla, we will continue to waive the UTZ program fee and not yet charge a royalty on Rainforest Alliance Certified vanilla. The new royalty amounts for each of these crops is specified below.
Together, these mutual recognition arrangements are an important step that will make things simpler for companies and allow an easier transition into our new certification program. In addition, we hope that farmers in both systems will find new buyers and markets for their produce. For more information read the Q&A below, check our mutual recognition guidelines document, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions & Answers
Scope & General
Which crops does this apply to?
- From July 1, 2020 – Coffee, vanilla and herbal infusions, including rooibos.
- From July 2019 – Cocoa, tea, and hazelnuts.
Who is eligible for mutual recognition?
Companies sourcing UTZ and/or Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, cocoa, tea, herbals, hazelnuts or vanilla and packaging them for consumers or foodservice (Away From Home) may be eligible for mutual recognition to use either the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or UTZ label on their products. This means that only companies at the end of the supply chain producing a finished product are eligible for mutual recognition.
Why is coffee now added?
We did not include coffee in the first rounds of mutual recognition as we wanted to take steps to level the playing field and mitigate adverse effects on certified coffee farms and companies in the supply chain, given the current coffee market price and supply conditions. We are doing this in two ways:
1) in December 2019, we waived the requirement for current Rainforest Alliance Certified farms to comply with additional (“Level B”) continuous improvement criteria until the new standard takes effect next year which will include continuous improvement criteria for all certified farms. This will help ensure that the farmers will be able to invest in the criteria of the new standard rather than spend on requirements that may not be continued.
And, 2) in July 2020 we will replace the UTZ program fee with the Rainforest Alliance royalty for coffee, to equalize these costs in the supply chain as we have done with other crops benefiting from mutual recognition.
What does “herbal infusions” include?
Herbal infusions (also called “herbal teas”) include rooibos, mint, hibiscus, apple pieces, and all ingredients used in any herbal infusion blend: herbs, spices, flowers, and other botanical ingredients. However, any herbs and spices that are not part of an herbal infusion (such as table herbs, table spices and seasoning mixes) are not included in mutual recognition.
What about other crops?
Companies selling other products from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms – such as bananas and other fruits, palm and coconut oils, flower bouquets, table spices, etc. – continue to be eligible to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal but will not be eligible to use the UTZ label. Mutual recognition will not apply to any further crops.
The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards are different – is there a risk of confusing consumers?
Our two existing certification schemes are very similar in terms of objectives and impact; however, we have published details on our website outlining what Rainforest Alliance seal means and how it relates to a product or an ingredient grown on farms certified to either the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard or the UTZ Code of Conduct. Companies are welcome to link to this page from their own communications to ensure full transparency and disclosure as we move towards our new standard.
What seal or logo will be used for the new certification program?
We are working to refresh and modernize the Rainforest Alliance seal as part of the development of our new agricultural certification program, while making the most of existing strong consumer recognition and brand value. More information will be shared in the coming months.
The UTZ label will be gradually phased out. Meanwhile, companies can continue to submit UTZ labelling approval requests at least until the end of 2022. We will also continue to offer support for UTZ certified brands and products, from sourcing through marketing.
What can I do to use Mutual Recognition?
If you haven’t already done so, start by ensuring that you have mutual recognition for Chain of Custody certification set up. You must first have Chain of Custody mutual recognition to be eligible for claim-level mutual recognition of your products. As a part of this process, if you don’t have one already, you will also register for an account in our Marketplace platform which will be required in order to make requests for mutual recognition claims.
Can I use both seals on one package or in a single claim?
No, not through mutual recognition. Existing rules apply, however, meaning that dual labeling can happen in certain instances. For example, if one ingredient is UTZ and another is Rainforest Alliance certified, they would continue to be able to claim the two independently so long as it is clear which relates to each ingredient.
Which labeling rules apply when using mutual recognition?
The labeling rules / policy that support the seal to be used will apply; i.e. if you wish to use the UTZ label, the UTZ 2017 labeling rules apply. If you wish to use the legacy Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, the Rainforest Alliance 2016 labeling guidelines apply. For the new Rainforest Alliance seal, the 2020 Labeling Policy and Seal Graphic Guidelines apply.
Can I use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on hazelnuts?
Yes. We believe in helping brands link all of their claims together, simplify their message, and prevent a proliferation of messages that may confuse consumers. This also helps facilitate our move towards a single new seal in the future.
What text claims are allowed?
All text claims must be true, accurate, and approved in advance by the Rainforest Alliance, as per the corresponding labeling rules or guidelines. Companies sourcing from either or both UTZ certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified farms may label products or make claims about those products as per mutual recognition, and when using the new Rainforest Alliance seal may claim that their product “comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms” or simply “is Rainforest Alliance Certified.” Please consult your own legal counsel on labeling laws in your country. Companies are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with local laws.
What about with mass balance cocoa?
When using the Rainforest Alliance Cocoa Sourcing Label for mass balance cocoa, sourced wholly or in part from UTZ certified farms through mutual recognition, the on-pack statement and corresponding web page should be updated accordingly. For example, the on-pack statement could read, “We purchase a volume of cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and/or UTZ certified farms equivalent to the volume used in this product.”
Can I claim that my product is free of GMOs?
Yes, if you can support that claim independent of certification. While we understand that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not generally available for the crops included in mutual recognition, note that the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance standards differ in their approach to GMOs. The Rainforest Alliance standard prohibits the use of GMOs while the UTZ standard permits GMOs provided that the producer declares such use to UTZ. To date, UTZ has not received any producer GMO declaration. However, in the event that a producer declares GMO use in the future, that UTZ certified product will not be eligible for the mutual recognition program.
Can I change my UTZ-labeled coffee product to use the 30% Rainforest Alliance Certified seal?
No. Coffee products (both consumer-facing and for foodservice) that are currently approved with the UTZ label require at least 90% UTZ certified content, and we will require those products to maintain the 90%+ certified content if they are switched to the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal under mutual recognition. Companies will not be allowed to “scale down” the certified content of their products as a result of mutual recognition.
Can volumes switch between UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification as they progress through the supply chain?
No. Once the volumes enter our traceability systems as either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified, it remains that way until the point of claiming. Volumes in the supply chain may not be bought as either Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certified and then sold as the other. In this manner, we (and end users) retain traceability and visibility of which code or standard was deployed at origin. In addition, given that we have implemented mutual recognition at the Chain of Custody level already, this does not prevent supply chain actors from buying both so long as the correct administrative processes are followed.
If a mid-supply chain actor is buying from both programs, can they physically mix UTZ and Rainforest Alliance Certified volumes during processing?
No. Except in the case of mass balance, the two schemes remain independent of each other from origin all the way through the supply chain until the final user, where they can be mixed. Certification Bodies checking that claims have the required approvals in place will check that the volumes for these claims have been sourced correctly, and at this point they may be from either scheme.
Can UTZ and Rainforest Alliance Certified mass balance cocoa volumes be mixed and counted equally with mutual recognition?
Yes, the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance mass balance cocoa programs are aligned so that from the first buyer onward – essentially any company after the farm that is trading or manufacturing with UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa – the cocoa may be physically mixed and counted as Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certified volumes for labeling on consumer-facing products. The volumes must remain administratively separate, however, and reported in the corresponding traceability system.
We expect that mass balance for cocoa will continue to be allowed with the new standards, policies and guidelines to be published in 2020, and that the requirements for mass balance cocoa will be the same as they are in the current UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs.
Can a supply chain actor mix UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified volumes with those certified by other schemes, or not certified at all?
Only when part of a mass balance supply chain, according to existing mass balance rules, or for consumer-end packaged products with 30-90% certified content claims. Mutual recognition is being implemented between the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification programs – we are not recognizing other standards and schemes outside this.
Why are the royalties/fees changing?
In order to allow volumes to be used interchangeably at the end of the supply chain, it is important for us to align the fees/royalties charged by the Rainforest Alliance during this period of transition to the new certification system.
What will the rates be?
We are aligning the fees/royalties of our existing programs in order to support mutual recognition. The rates that will be charged during the period of transition towards the new standard will be as follows:
- $12.90 per MT for cocoa (replacing the current Rainforest Alliance royalty and UTZ program fees from July 1, 2019, and the current UTZ membership fee from January 2020. To allow for full alignment on costs, the UTZ high volume discount structure was discontinued as of July 1, 2019. The total fee increases for UTZ First Buyers will be capped at +20% for 2019 and 2020, calculated by comparing new annual costs to what costs would have been with the pre-July 2019 fees).
- $33.07 per MT ($0.015 per pound) of green coffee, as with the current Rainforest Alliance royalty, from July 1, 2020. For UTZ certified coffee, this represents a 0.3 US cent increase per pound. From January 2021 we intend to shift the invoicing to the first buyer after export level (or in cases when the coffee is not exported, the company redeeming the volume in the MultiTrace system will be invoiced).
- €30 per MT for the hazelnuts program fee , invoiced to the first buyer with a Chain of Custody certificate (no change), membership fees continue (no change)
Herbal infusions, including rooibos
- €22.50 per MT for all herbal infusion ingredients from July 1, 2020. As with the current UTZ program, it will be collected once in each herbal supply chain, invoiced to the packer of the herbal infusions for consumer products, with or without an UTZ or Rainforest Alliance claim.
Tea (excluding herbals)
- $12.50 per MT for tea (no change to the existing Rainforest Alliance royalty, and replacing the current UTZ program fee from July 1, 2019).
- No royalty or fees will be charged for vanilla at this time.
Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard / UTZ Code of Conduct Certification Holders
Can a producer now automatically sell their production as either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified?
No. All producers need to continue to sell their products as UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified as based on their certification. They also need to continue to ensure that their sales are registered in the appropriate traceability system as per their current set up. Producers will however gain access to a broader customer base as a result of mutual recognition as supply chain actors can apply for mutual recognition of their Chain of Custody certification (see Guidelines), and know that their volumes can also be used to support brands wishing to make either claim from this launch onwards. This means that there will be a greater number of buyers that can purchase volumes from producers certified against either standard, without requiring any changes at the producer level.