Mars Inc is to sell its first Fairtrade product after deciding to move its Maltesers brand to the ethical certification.

The US confectionery giant said today (27 September) that it would sell Fairtrade Maltesers in the UK and Ireland next year.

Mars said the use of Fairtrade for Maltesers would provide farmers in west Africa with over US$1m a year in "Fairtrade Premium" funds.

"This agreement is a big step towards fulfilling our shared mission to empower farmers to build vibrant, sustainable livelihoods, and we're very excited to work with Fairtrade on ways to enable commodity certification to scale across the entire industry," Barry Parkin, Mars' global chocolate vice president, said.

The decision will increase the amount of "certified" cocoa sourced by Mars for its chocolate products.

In 2009, the company said it would use only "certified, sustainably sourced cocoa" by 2020. Alongside that announcement, Mars said the Rainforest Alliance would certify 100,00 metric tonnes of cocoa a year. A year later, the company placed the Rainforest Alliance logo on its Galaxy bars on sale in the UK and Ireland.

2009 also saw Mars announce a commitment to buy 100,000 tonnes of cocoa certified by non-profit organisation UTZ by 2020.

Maltesers will become the latest chocolate brand in the UK to carry the Fairtrade logo. Products including Cadbury Dairy Milk and Nestle's Kit Kat are already certified Fairtrade.