NEARLY 20 million Fairtrade KitKats were hitting the shelves across the UK today.

York confectioner Nestlé said it had experienced an overwhelmingly positive response from retailers and customers since it announced late last year that its best-selling chocolate bar was to be certified as Fairtrade.

More than 6,000 cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast will benefit from the move, which will mean additional payments for farmers to invest in community or business development projects of their own choice, such as improving healthcare and schools.

Nestlé boss David Rennie stated that UK consumers were increasingly interested in how the company sourced and manufactured its most popular products.

The change to Fairtrade has been hailed as “fantastic news” by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, while it has been welcomed as a “good starting point” by Mark Dawson, of the York Fair Trade Forum, who urged the company to go on to use Fairtrade cocoa and sugar in all its chocolate products.

Gareth Thomas, the Trade and Development Minister, said the KitKat move would give British shoppers the chance to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

Meanwhile, Nestlé has launched a new seasonal KitKat in the run-up to Easter, featuring a bunny design on the outer pack and another one embossed on the bar.

Graham Walker, the company’s UK trade communications manager, said that with a loyal consumer base for KitKat of both men and women, the KitKat Bunnies bar was sure to be a recipe for success.

He was confident it would boost KitKat sales, which were already performing exceptionally well, having risen by 13 per cent.

He said the spring period was an important time for retailers and urged them to position the new KitKat Bunnies, which were developed by scientists in York but are made elsewhere, in a “high traffic” area, such as next to the till.