FAQ: The Rainforest Alliance’s New Cocoa Sourcing Program

When the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM frog seal appears on products, it means that an ingredient specified on the packaging—such as cocoa—has come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Companies know that an ingredient from certified farms is in each package because they must have systems in place throughout their supply chains—the system involved in manufacturing a product from supplier to consumer—that keeps the certified ingredient separate from non-certified ingredients in their facilities. This "segregated model" of production makes it possible to trace the certified ingredient inside the finished product back to the certified farm(s) where it was grown.

However, it is not always possible for companies to separate certified ingredients from non-certified ones in their facilities and supply chains due to the complexity of processing or high costs involved. This is especially the case for cocoa in chocolate products. For this reason, the Rainforest Alliance introduced a new Mass Balance Cocoa Sourcing program in 2017. Under this program, companies can buy Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa, and make this certified claim on product packaging, without having to engage in costly ingredient separation. This "mass balance" model of production allows companies to buy more cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, which means that farmers, the environment, and cocoa-growing communities benefit from companies’ increasing purchases.

How does the program work?

Under this new cocoa sourcing program, a company can claim on product packaging that Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa is sourced for a particular brand if the volume of cocoa purchased by their supply chain from certified farms matches the volume of cocoa used in the manufacturing of that specific brand. This means that while certified cocoa might not end up in every chocolate bar because of certified and non-certified ingredients mixing at the company’s facility or the facilities of the company’s suppliers, the supply chain is still buying cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and including this ingredient in the overall manufacturing of its chocolate recipes.

How are mass balance products labelled?

Companies labelling products that are manufactured using the mass balance model must use the Rainforest Alliance’s new Cocoa Sourcing label instead of the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. In addition to the new label, companies must also include an explanatory statement and URL on product packaging and all promotional designs where consumers can find further information on mass balance.

What’s the difference between the Cocoa Sourcing label and the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal?

The Cocoa Sourcing label contains the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal within a rounded rectangle and includes the words "Cocoa Sourcing". This indicates that enough certified cocoa was sourced for the product using the label, but the certified cocoa was mixed along the supply chain with non-certified cocoa before the final product was made. The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, however, stands alone and may only be used for products that contain certified ingredients (the "segregated" model), with the certified ingredient(s) noted.

 

Rainforest Alliance Cocoa Sourcing program seals

 

By purchasing products with the new Cocoa Sourcing label or the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, consumers are helping to advance the cultivation of sustainable cocoa, improving living conditions for farmers and their families while protecting forests, wildlife, and the environment for future generations.

Learn more about the Rainforest Alliance’s cocoa certification program. More details and rules for the Mass Balance Cocoa Sourcing Program are available here.

Forest canopy - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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