Updated on October 25, 2018

Leonie Haakshorst, UTZ Hazelnut Program Manager

It’s been five years since we launched the UTZ hazelnut program. In that time, the program has grown from a modest 1,014 farmers and four market members to 6,549 farmers and 100 market members. The program has also gone global, expanding outside of Turkey to Georgia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Italy and other countries. As the program grows so does the available volume of hazelnuts, helping ensure a constant availability for companies sourcing certified hazelnuts for their products.

We checked in with Leonie Haakshorst, manager of the UTZ hazelnut program, on the achievements made so far and the opportunities available for companies who want to begin sourcing certified hazelnuts, for example for their cocoa products.

Expanding certified production beyond Turkey

“We started the program because of the challenges in Turkey and market demand from our existing cocoa members”, Leonie explains. “Nevertheless, to truly enable sector change, it was important to open the program up to other countries as well.” UTZ’s efforts and commitment in Turkey, the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts, continue to be of great importance, but other countries have presented new sourcing opportunities. Leonie notes: “This means that our program is now more accommodating to different buying strategies.”

Benefits of sourcing certified hazelnuts for cocoa products

“With a greater supply of certified hazelnuts available, it’s easier than ever for companies to meet consumer demand for hazelnuts”, Leonie says. 80% of the world’s biggest hazelnut exporters are a part of the UTZ program, including major players like Ferrero, Balsu Gida, Arslantürk, Durak and more. This ensures a constant supply for cocoa companies who want to add certified hazelnuts to their products. “Chocolate hazelnut bars are the best sellers among chocolate products”, Leonie explains. “If your cocoa is certified it makes business sense to include certified hazelnuts as well.” Sourcing certified hazelnuts helps address important social issues in the hazelnut sector. Five years after the launch of the program, UTZ has made progress on issues of child labor, farming practices and working conditions for hazelnut farmers.

What we’ve achieved and where we’re headed

Leonie: “With a total of over 9,000 tons of certified hazelnuts, we closed the hazelnut year with four times more sales than last year. On top of that we have just welcomed our 100th buyer! This year’s harvest is looking good as well. So far 17 certificate holders have been audited, with less non-compliance than ever before.” The goal is a healthy hazelnut sector in which sustainable farming of hazelnuts is the norm. Looking ahead to next year, this goal is only becoming more achievable as Leonie predicts a doubling in hazelnut volume. “This will secure future availability for market partners as well as markets for producers.”

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