Mars Co., Analytics Firm Partner on Cacao Supply Chain Sustainability

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ITHACA, NY and DAVIS, CA — Global demand for cacao is expected to grow at an annual rate of approximately 5 percent for the foreseeable future.* In the past, increasing demand has been met by increasing the total acreage under cacao cultivation. However, this approach has come at a high cost in terms of deforestation and environmental degradation.

Mars Wordmark Rgb BlueAs part of its Cocoa for Generations strategy, Mars Incorporated has committed to meeting its future cacao needs through a 100 percent sustainable supply-chain. Cocoa for Generations is how Mars intends to step-change efforts, lead the way and invite others to partner with them in a new approach to increase farmer income, protect children and preserve forests today, and crack the code on a model of modern sustainable cocoa farming for tomorrow.

"Developing improved cacao varieties through field breeding is expensive and requires decades before new planting materials can reach the farmers," explains Dr. David Mackill, director of genetics and breeding at Mars. "Through our new partnership with NSIP we anticipate greatly accelerating the effort to develop new productive and disease-resistant cacao planting materials for the benefit of cocoa farmers worldwide. Using science to improve the productivity of cocoa is just one of the many ways we're bringing to life our Mars Cocoa for Generations strategy."

Achieving a 100 percent sustainable supply-chain will not be an easy task — especially since the cacao crop will increasingly compete with other crops such as oil palm and rubber for available farmland.  Improved agronomic practices will help achieve this goal, but alone will not be sufficient. The key will be to significantly increase the genetic potential of cacao to produce higher yields and improved quality on the same or even less farmland. With this goal in mind, Mars has engaged Nature Source Improved Plants (NSIP) in a collaborative project to accelerate the development of new cacao varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance and improved quality. 

Mars is a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and pets. With more than $35 billion in sales, the company is a global business that produces some of the world's well-known brands: M&M's, SNICKERS, TWIX, MILKY WAY, DOVE, PEDIGREE, ROYAL CANIN, WHISKAS, EXTRA, ORBIT, 5, SKITTLES, UNCLE BEN'S, and COCOAVIA. Mars Associates take care of half of the world's pets through our nutrition, health and services businesses such as Banfield Pet Hospitals, BluePearl, Linnaeus, AniCura, VCA and Pet Partners. Headquartered in McLean, VA, Mars operates in more than 80 countries with more than 115,000 associates.

Nature Source Improved Plants (NSIP) is an advanced optimization analytics company located in New York, NY and Chiapas, Mexico; and dedicated to the conservation, evaluation and utilization of natural genetic resources to deliver high performing plant materials and creating value and efficiency through innovative and sustainable cutting-edge technologies for the global community. NSIP is focused on maximizing genetic performance via a unique pipeline of new breeding technologies based on genomics, operations research and other advanced fields of mathematics and computer science. NSIP is focused on maximizing genetic performance via a unique pipeline of new breeding technologies based on genomics, operations research and other advanced fields of mathematics and computer science. NSIP's advanced genetics and breeding technologies have resulted in a multifold increase in productivity and quality across a wide variety of field, vegetable, perennial and orphan crops, while minimizing R&D costs. NSIP is also focused on the development of high throughput and high fidelity in vitro propagation techniques to meet the needs of growers — especially those involved in the production of perennial plantation crops.

"NSIP is excited to be providing both its expertise and advanced analytical tools in this collaboration with Mars to develop and offer higher-yielding, more resistance and higher quality cacao varieties for the benefit of farmers and consumers worldwide," said Dr. Steven Tanksley, NSIP chief technology officer.

*Cocoa demand (2019) Cacao Oro Group

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