KitKat has severed its ties with Fairtrade, despite warnings that thousands of farmers will be hit by move.
The boss of Fairtrade said owner Nestle’s decision to cut its 10-year association with the non-profit organisation is “profoundly disappointing”.
The Swiss-owned food giant said it will now source its cocoa for KitKat bars from farms on Rainforest Alliance terms instead of those working with Fairtrade accreditation.
Nestle, which already uses Rainforest Alliance certified farmers on other bars such as Aero and Yorkie, said it will start the new partnership for KitKat from October 2020.
However, Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, told the PA news agency that its cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast were “devastated” by the news.
He said: “It would never be good news but to face this when the country is looking at one of the worst health crises imaginable makes things particularly difficult.
“Nestle’s relationship with farmers in Ivory Coast has been able to make a huge difference to village communities, helping them to receive electricity and water pumps.
“The decision is a huge blow.”
Simon Billington, global technical manager for Nestle Confectionery, said the firm is aware that “the move will have an impact on some farmers”, but said it is “working hard” to mitigate this.
The company said it will provide financial support to help its current farmers to certify with the Rainforest Alliance if they wish.
Nestle said it was a not money-saving decision and will spend the same amount on cocoa from its farmers over the next year.
It said it will also invest in a series of initiatives to support farmers and communities, including £1 million to improve incomes and a further £500,000 on community projects.
Mr Billington added: “Our expanded partnership with the Rainforest Alliance underlines our commitment to sustainable cocoa sourcing throughout our global supply chain.
“Our successful partnership with Fairtrade is ending as we harmonise our certification for sustainable sourcing internationally.
“The Rainforest Alliance has significant experience working with cocoa farmers in understanding and implementing robust sustainability criteria that drives positive change, and we look forward to deepening our collaboration in the coming years.”
Alex Morgan, chief markets officer at the Rainforest Alliance, said: “We’re delighted Nestle is strengthening its position in the cocoa sector and unifying its responsible cocoa sourcing commitment across all of its portfolios.
“Our certification programmes continue to connect companies, consumers, farmers and businesses committed to protecting the health of ecosystems, workers, and communities by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of food producers.”