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Blommer Chocolate Co. is increasing cocoa sustainability efforts, according to an announcement made Wednesday during a media tour at its headquarters plant in downtown Chicago.

The largest processor and ingredient chocolate supplier in North America is investing an incremental $45 million by 2020 as a part of its Sustainable Origins program.

The company is aiming to reach an additional 50,000 cocoa farmers worldwide, building on existing farmer programs to double its current farmer base to 100,000.

Demand for cocoa is estimated to rise by nearly 30 percent in the next ten years, and threatens to outpace supply by as much as one million metric tons by 2020. Blommer plans to meet rising consumer demand in the next 30 years and to help its customers achieve their sustainability goals.

The company’s Sustainable Origins initiatives operate extensive farmer training programs throughout West Africa, Indonesia and the Americas. Though the programs, farmer groups are trained in pre- and post- harvest agronomic practices that generate increased cocoa yields and incomes.

“True sustainability can only be achieved through programs and activities that are, or become, self-sustaining,” says Peter Blommer, president and coo at Blommer. “As a multi-generational family business we believe that our industry has an obligation to help provide the education and tools necessary for farmers to improve quality, productivity and gain market transparency — not only to keep pace with market demand for chocolate, but also to ensure the economic viability of cocoa farming for generations.”

The company has invested nearly $13 million into the cocoa sector to help meet rising cocoa demand, with $3.7 million in farmer training and infrastructure improvements and $9 million in direct premiums to farmers for cocoa that meets their quality standards.

“We see that with proper farmer training, improvements in soil fertility and the introduction of stronger genetic material, farmers can increase their yields by more than 30 percent, driving an immediate and positive impact on family income,” says Kip Walk, corporate director of cocoa and sustainability at Blommer.

Today, more than 50,000 farmers actively participate in Blommer’s sustainability programs, generating increases in cocoa bean yield as well as increased marketing skills.

Additionally, Blommer has established schools and medical facilities to provide much needed services for cocoa farmers and their families in rural locations.

In January 2012, a Blommer Medical Center opened in rural Yakasse Attobrou, Côte d'ivoire, providing medical services to farmers and their families.

 Blommer Chocolate Co. currently employs more than 650 employees in four manufacturing facilities in North America. The company also is involved with the World Cocoa Foundation and promotes sustainable farming practices through its privately managed programs in Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia and Ecuador.