ZURICH, October 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Kraft Foods today announced a major step forward in its long-standing support of sustainable cocoa farming. Based on pioneering work started in 2005 in the Cote d'Ivoire, the company has launched the first mainstream chocolate products in Europe to carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) seal. Additionally, it has committed to increase current purchases of cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) farms ten-fold by the end of 2012, to 30,000 tons.

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Beginning in France and Belgium, Cote d'Or premium dark chocolate will now contain cocoa from farms that meet the sustainability standard of the Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) program. Over the coming months, the certified Cote d'Or range will be rolled out to consumers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. It will also be made available to chocolate lovers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland under the Marabou brand; and using the Suchard brand in Austria and Switzerland.

The brands represent the first mainstream European chocolate to carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) seal. By the end of 2012, the company has committed to use only cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) farms across its entire Cote d'Or and Marabou ranges, equal to some 30,000 tons of beans.

This commitment results from a pioneering project with internationally respected partners. Since 2005, Kraft Foods has been working with the Rainforest Alliance, leading development organizations in Germany and the US - Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - as well as with the cocoa trader, Armajaro, to support sustainable cocoa production in the Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa.

The commitment also builds on Kraft Food's experience and long-standing collaboration with Rainforest Alliance to develop sustainable coffee growing for use in mainstream brands - a relationship that has resulted in the company becoming the world's leading buyer of coffee beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) farms.

Edward Millard, Director for Sustainable Landscapes at the Rainforest Alliance, believes that taking Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) cocoa to mainstream brands is key to making a real difference.

Our collaboration with Kraft Foods and grassroots groups in Cote d'Ivoire will result in long-term, positive changes in the lives of cocoa farmers, their families, communities and the ecosystems on which they depend, said Millard. Working together, we are protecting water, wildlife and soils, while training a new generation of farmers in the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable agriculture.

The public-private partnership, known as the Market-Oriented Promotion of Sustainable Certified Cocoa Production project, has enabled six Ivorian cooperatives, representing over 2000 farmers in the Daloa/Issia and Abengourou areas, to gain the Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) seal. The results have been encouraging. The last crop year alone witnessed improved yields and significant productivity gains, in some cases above 50%. The incidence of cocoa 'black pod' disease was also reduced by one third and farmer incomes have improved.

This is very good news for all involved, explained Carsten Schmitz-Hoffmann, responsible for social and ecological standards at the GTZ, a key partner in the project. GTZ sees Kraft Foods as an industry pioneer enabling us to advance our work in support of sustainable cocoa and coffee farming practices. We are particularly excited that sustainably-produced Ivorian cocoa is now available in an outstanding brand like Cote d'Or.

According to Schmitz-Hoffmann, it is important for cocoa farmers to improve their incomes by introducing better agricultural practices, improving selling methods and ensuring that the certified cocoa they produce has broader appeal beyond niche markets.

Pascal Bourdin, Senior Vice President of Kraft Foods and General Manager of its European chocolate business, agrees and believes that sustainably farmed cocoa will provide high quality cocoa beans over the long term.

Cote d'Or and Marabou are two of our premium chocolate brands. By using sustainably grown Ivorian cocoa, we can continue to offer the most intense chocolate pleasure to our consumers while improving the lives of cocoa farmers and helping secure high quality cocoa for the longer term.

Bourdin underlines that this latest initiative represents only one step in Kraft Foods' broader sustainability commitment. The company intends to continue its efforts to encourage sustainable cocoa farming, working individually in cocoa producing regions as well as with others as part of broader initiatives such as those led by the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Cocoa Foundation.

I believe we've made a great start. My dream is to see every piece of chocolate worldwide made with cocoa from certified farms, says Bourdin.

About Kraft Foods

Kraft Foods (www.kraftfoodscompany.com) makes today delicious in 150 countries around the globe. Our 100,000 employees work tirelessly to make delicious foods consumers can feel good about. With global powerhouse brands like Oreo and LU biscuits, Philadelphia cream cheeses, Jacobs and Carte Noire coffees, Tang powdered beverages and Milka, Cote d'Or and Toblerone chocolates, we deliver millions of smiles every day. Kraft Foods is the world's second largest food company with annual revenues of US$42 billion. The company is a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Standard Poor's 500, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the Ethibel Sustainability Index.

For further information about the public-private partnership, visit www.certified-cocoa.com. Other related links: www.rainforest-alliance.org; www.gtz.de/en; www.worldcocoafoundation.org

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SOURCE: Kraft Foods

CONTACT: Sabine Peters-Halfbrodt, +41-(0)58-4404285,SPeters-Halfbrodt@krafteurope.com, or Richard Buino, +1-847-646-4538,news@kraft.com, both of Kraft Foods