By Bernard Pacyniak
Candy Industry

sweet talk: Recommitting to the children

On Monday, the global chocolate and cocoa industry, the U.S. Department of Labor, Senator Tom Harkin and U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, together with representatives from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), launched a new “Framework of Action” in support of preventing child labor abuses prevalent in cocoa farming.
The $7-million commitment, $2 million of which go to a new public/private partnership led by the International Labor Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor and $5 million of which go to the expansion of current programs, is aimed at encouraging safe labor practices, boosting family incomes and helping at-risk children in Western Africa.
Unfortunately, despite the money that’s already been invested in eradicating this problem, child labor abuses still occur. Nevertheless, there’s been plenty of progress, and this reaffirms the commitment of the chocolate and cocoa industry to remain focused on the task at hand. I recognize there’s a bevy of critics out there who contend the industry isn’t moving fast enough on this (even I was one of them when the reports first surfaced), but this is a problem that spans borders, cultures and economies. Civil unrest, poverty, lack of infrastructure, local graft and government corruption all hinder stamping out this abuse.
But the industry is getting better at determining how to complete its mission. As Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), said at the historic get-together, everyone involved in the effort over the past 10 years has “learned a great deal.”
As he points out, “Only through partnership, shared responsibility and coordinated action can we make a lasting impact on this societal and developmental challenge.” It’s also important to note that Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has announced that the U.S. government will help fund the Framework of Action agreement with a $10-million grant.
Since 1995, Congress has appropriated approximately $780 million to the U.S. Department of Labor to support efforts to combat exploitive child labor around the world, resulting in the rescue of approximately 1.4 million children from the worst forms of child labor.
We often hear disparaging remarks about the role of government, the lack of industry sensitivity to human issues, and the lack of organization and waste within nonprofit groups. It’s really encouraging to see the United States, meaning the government, and leading chocolate companies as well as the NCA and the World Cocoa Foundation take an active role in making child labor a non-issue in the future. Partnering can work.
Which brings us to another headline, somewhat related, that jumped out at me this week. This past Monday, The Hershey Co., on the anniversary of Milton Hershey’s birthday, launched its first Corporate Social Responsibility report. ( I commend the company for spelling out its efforts at being a corporate good citizen, although probably a bit late in comparison to other multinationals.
But just shortly after Hershey released its report, several nonprofit groups -- the Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum and Oasis USA, to be specific -- lashed out at the nation’s largest chocolate manufacturer with their report: “Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility for The Hershey Co.”
Available at each group’s Web site (I’ll give just one,, the groups assail Hershey for failure to ensure that its cocoa purchases are not tainted by child labor, that it refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers and that it has no third-party certification.

In the end, the groups demand that Hershey commit to 100% Fair Trade certification for at least one of its top five selling bars by 2012 and the majority of its cocoa products by 2022.

Linking Fair Trade certification to the eradication of child labor abuse in West Africa is somewhat simplistic, I contend. And while I admit that it would be good corporate and business policy to have some kind of certification, there are larger and smaller companies that are working directly with the farmers to ensure good beans and good practices. In a way, they are doing their own certification policy, one that goes beyond “Fair Trade.”

I think the aforementioned groups lost the higher ground with me when -- after proposing third-party certification -- they simply embraced Fair Trade as the only vehicle to do so. Organizations such as Barry Callebaut, Cargill and others have embraced UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification programs, partly because the volumes often are well beyond Fair Trade certification capabilities.

One can argue whether Hershey is doing enough with its corporate social responsibility programs, but I find it unproductive to call someone out on such an issue and fail to provide room for dialogue.

Child labor abuse is not an easy fix; anyone who’s been to West Africa (including yours truly) can attest. And while partnering can be slow, it does provide progress.

Mars, USDA-ARS, IBM unveil preliminary cacao genome sequence ahead of schedule

Today, Mars, Inc., the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and IBM released the preliminary findings of their breakthrough cacao genome sequence and made it available in the public domain. This is the result of a joint research endeavor to improve the cocoa growing process and represents a successful private/public partnership for the benefit of the world’s cocoa farmers as well as a more sustainable world cocoa supply.
The preliminary sequencing of the cacao genome is a promising first step in advancing farmers’ ability to plant more robust, higher-yielding, and drought and disease-resistant trees. The results of the research will be made available to the public with permanent access via the Cacao Genome Database ( to ensure that the data remains perpetually open without patent as well as to allow scientists to begin applying the findings immediately to crop cultivation efforts.
 With approximately 6.5 million farmers depending on cocoa for their livelihoods -- most of them coming from small, family-run farms -- cocoa is a crucial crop for their survival and the economies of their nations. However, cocoa crops have always been plagued by serious global losses from pests and diseases, and, to date, there has been very little investment in scientific research to improve the cacao tree.
“As the global leader in cocoa science, we understand the importance of not only investing in this research, but making it publicly available for all to benefit,” says Howard-Yana Shapiro, Ph.D., global head of plant science and research for Mars. “As a private company, Mars is in a unique position to drive and fund fundamental science that will support its long term focus and vision. Although it may not benefit the bottom line in the short term, in the long run, it will ensure mutually beneficial results for the company, cocoa farmers and tree crop production in key regions of the world.”
Decades of Mars research has led to major innovations in the areas of sustainable cocoa farming technology. The company’s latest partnership -- blending Mars’ cocoa expertise, USDA-ARS’ extensive experience with other major crops and IBM’s technology -- is an example of the role business can play in addressing challenging global issues.
The results of this uniquely collaborative project -- which were delivered three years early due to Mars’ scientific leadership, advances in genome technology and constant real-time collaboration with key partners -- mark a significant scientific milestone that is already starting to benefit millions of farmers, particularly in West Africa where more than 70% of the world’s cocoa crop is produced. By making the results publicly available, scientists will have access to key learnings to advance plant science, while plant breeders and farmers around the world will be able to develop cacao trees that are more sustainable, and can better fend off the environmental assaults that inflict $700 to $800 million in damages to farmers’ crops each year.
“Genome sequencing helps eliminate much of the guess-work of traditional crop cultivation,” Shapiro notes. “Cocoa is what some researchers describe as an ‘orphan crop,’ because it has been the subject of little agricultural research compared to corn, wheat and rice. This effort, which will allow fast and accurate traditional breeding, is about applying the best of what science has to offer in taking an under-served crop and under-served population and giving them both the chance to flourish.”
 "The collaboration with Mars and the USDA-ARS leverages more than a decade of IBM Research's experience in computational biology, as well as the power of the Blue Gene supercomputer," adds Ajay Royyuru, senior manager, IBM Computational Biology Center. “By assembling the sequence fragments into the complete genome sequence and developing a detailed genetic map, we can help maximize the potential yield and income for cocoa farmers and catalyze future research and endeavors involving the cacao tree."
Mars was the primary funder of the project, investing millions into the research. Other partners in addition to IBM, the USDA-ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami and the Jamie Whitten Research Center in Stoneville, Miss., include: Clemson University Genomics Institute; Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture at the University of California-Davis; National Center for Genome Resources; Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University; HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; and Washington State University.
Moving forward, the collaboration will continue to analyze and characterize the cocoa genome in preparation for submission to peer-reviewed publications. “The talent and dedication brought together through this partnership is unmatched,” Shapiro concludes. “Our work is not over, however -- we have a shared responsibility to continue our research and release new information to the public as we continue on this path of discovery.”

Godiva partners with Top Chef Just Desserts for limited collection, free chocolate day

Godiva Chocolatier will be featured on the premiere episode of Bravo’s “Top Chef Just Desserts” at 10 p.m. CST tonight, Sept. 15, as part of its partnership with the TV network to introduce the Top Chef Just Desserts Limited Collection.
Bravo’s new series showcases 12 pastry chefs competing in weekly challenges in hopes of winning the title of Top Chef. The Top Chef Just Desserts Limited Collection will hit Godiva stores nationwide on a date soon to be announced.
Bravo also is promoting Sept. 15 as Just Desserts Day. As such, local dessert vendors in 20 markets handed out free desserts from 1-3 p.m.; Godiva has 51 Boutiques, as well as seven select Macy's shop-in-shops, participating by handing out free Bakery Dessert Truffles.
The network also has “4 Dessert Trucks” in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles featuring Godiva chocolate aboard. The trucks are roaming the cities throughout the day, Tweeting their locations as well as what free dessert they are handing out.
For more information about Godiva, visit For more information about Top Chef Just Desserts, visit

Lindt unwraps online journal

Premium chocolate manufacturer Lindt USA, Stratham, N.H., has launched a new blog, Lindt Chocolate Unwrapped, The site offers consumers a behind-the-scenes view of Lindt and insights into the premium chocolate industry. The blog is an industry first, as Lindt is the only major premium chocolate manufacturer to launch this type of online outlet.
To further educate and engage chocolate lovers, Lindt Chocolate Unwrapped discusses the inner workings of Lindt and covers a wide range of topics, including product research and development; how best to enjoy premium chocolate; recipes; company news and history; consumer promotions; and industry commentary. The blog also offers advice from the Lindt Master Chocolatiers, experts in all things chocolate, and showcases a variety of Lindt authors to provide readers additional perspectives and knowledge from within the company.
“As the world’s leading producer of premium chocolate, we saw the need for a new source of information and platform for discussion on all things in the world of fine chocolate -- from cocoa bean to final exquisite chocolate creation, and everything in between,” says Thomas Linemayr, president & ceo of Lindt USA, who wrote the inaugural post for the blog. “We are excited to share this ‘inside look’ and hope it interests and educates, as well as fosters more two-way conversations with consumers.”
The blog is an extension of Lindt’s current social media properties, which include the Lindt Facebook page ( and Twitter handle ( Visitors to also can sign-up to receive e-mail notifications for all future blog posts.
For more information about Lindt, visit

Just Born rocks the boat with HOT TAMALES sweepstakes competition

Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born, Inc. has announced the HOT TAMALES Hot Seats Sizzle on the Sea Sweepstakes. Fans can visit and enter for a chance to set sail in January 2011 on an electrifying Caribbean Cruise, departing from and returning to Tampa, Fla. Two lucky entrants will win trips for two aboard The Rock Boat XI. Entertainment on the cruise will be hosted by Sister Hazel, along with performers from LIVE, Nada Surf and other hot groups. The sweepstakes end Nov. 14.

Hot Seats has more sizzling promotions to fire up fans across the country, including concert promos and giveaways. Participating stations are giving away tickets for more than a dozen concerts. In addition, the popular HOT TAMALES Brand Ambassadors will mingle with fans at each concert and hand out free samples of HOT TAMALES to everyone.
HOT TAMALES Hot Seats is a hot ticket, and it's easy to enter,” says Bob Zender, assistant brand manager for HOT TAMALES. Whether by land or by sea, HOT TAMALES will keep you rockin.’ We are thrilled to offer this to our fans.”
For more information about HOT TAMALES, visit

Mars retail group fashions licensee agreement with Monet Intl.

Mars Retail Group, Mt. Arlington, N.J., has announced a new licensing agreement with Monet Intl., Inc., a division of Liz Claiborne, Inc. and a global designer of high-quality, fashion jewelry. Monet will design and produce accessories such as rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and keepsakes that incorporate the whimsical and fun-loving M&M’S Characters. It also will design a higher-end line in sterling silver.
Price points range from $15 to $45, with sterling silver price points starting at $35. Items will be available at Macy’s locations across the country in late September. Other retailers can purchase the jewelry wholesale beginning Jan. 1, 2011. The keepsakes also will be sold at on starting Oct. 15.
“Monet has a long-standing reputation for the craftsmanship of quality, fashionable jewelry worn by women around the world,” says John Capizzi, general manager of Licensing for Mars Retail Group. “This partnership brings together two iconic brands to give consumers a line of collectible jewelry items that are both fashionable and fun to wear.”
For more information about Mars, visit

sweet of the week: Scharffen Berger Ben Tre Bar

Cacao beans exclusively sourced from the southern Ben Tre province of Vietnam are used to make Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker’s new Scharffen Berger Ben Tre chocolate bar. The rare, limited-edition bar is one of the first Vietnamese single-origin bars to be imported into America. It is a 72% cacao dark chocolate bar that is spicy and slightly fruity with notes of banana, cinnamon and fig -- flavors reflective of the country’s terroir and of Scharffen Berger’s small-batch, artisanal chocolate-making method. The suggested retail price per bar is $5.99-6.50.
For more information, visit