Ever thought chocolate could support or in fact end slavery. Tony’s chocolonely chocolate brand plans to do just that.
Apparently it is said that slavery is still a big problem in this industry. Hence, the Netherlands’s favorite chocolate brand; is making things a bit fair for the farmers who are at the bottom of the chain.
The Story of Teun van de Keukan –
In 2005, Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken took himself to the police and asked to be arrested; hired a lawyer to help send him to jail, and asked a judge to convict him of driving child slavery.
He even went to West Africa and brought back a former child slave to testify against him. Much to his disappointment the judge wouldn’t convict van de Keuken, because his crime was eating a chocolate bar.
Then van de Keuken decided he’d try to stop child slavery from the inside instead, and set up a chocolate company – Tony’s Chocolonely – dedicated to eradicating it from West Africa, where 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans come from.
In the 14 years since, van de Keuken has stepped away from Tony’s Chocolonely, but the brand is now the Netherlands’ favourite chocolate company, and enjoys 20 per cent of the market share.
In 2019, the company has started to have impact beyond its own slave-free supply chain by working with Albert Heijn, the Netherlands’ largest supermarket, to make its own-brand chocolate slave-free in a project enabled by Barry Callebaut, one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers.
Words of Tony’s Chief Chocolate officer –
“We’re not a chocolate company, we’re an impact company that makes chocolate,” says Henk Jan Beltman, the company’s chief chocolate officer.
“We have to prove to our competition and to governments that you can make tasty chocolate and be commercially successful while eradicating slavery from the value chain. And sometimes this goes very much in the opposite direction of our ideas of commercial success,” Jan Beltman says as he perches on a bright red sofa, facing a display of Tony’s chocolate bars piled high in colour-coordinated towers and hanging from the roof.
“We choose to inspire other brands to do slave free chocolate as well. We opened up and said that, if you want to make slave-free chocolate, we’re here to help. Maybe that’s not the best choice commercially, but it helps the purpose.”
“Chocolate doesn’t have a nutritional purpose, it’s just something we enjoy. But when it comes from a source you can’t be proud of, you can’t enjoy it,” Jan Beltman says. “It doesn’t make sense that there are 1.3 million children doing illegal work in cocoa for a product we just want to enjoy.”
How is Tony’s Chocolate Brand putting an end to Slavery?
The most striking thing about a Tony’s bar is its pieces, which are divided into a pattern instead of uniform squares. The inside of the packaging explains that the money made from cocoa is unevenly divided, before letting the consumer eat the metaphor.
The first part of Tony’s plan to change the UK chocolate industry is to drive awareness, then lead by example, says Ben Greensmith, Tony’s UK Country manager. It does this by sharing the details of its supply chain under its Tony’s Open Chain platform, where companies can access everything that’s required to eliminate child slavery from their supply chain.
Tony’s has five main principles: being able to trace where all its ingredients come from, paying higher prices to farmers, improving farmers’ productivity and encouraging them to adopt modern practices and diversify their crops, and investing in long-term commitment and farm cooperatives to empower farmers to work together.
The organisation has five cooperatives in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, with whom it works to ensure its cocoa is segregated at every point in the supply chain to ensure it’s as close to slave-free as possible. Greensmith is keen to point out that Tony’s doesn’t say it’s perfect, and it still does occasionally find issues, such as children carrying things they shouldn’t, or not wearing the right clothing.
Tony’s pays farmers a living wage by taking into consideration the size of their family and their farm; and adding a “Tony’s premium” on top. This is the most crucial part, because it’s widely established that child slavery is driven by low wages and poverty; says Dan Morey, head of commercial partnerships at Fairtrade.
Words of Morey and Greensmith about Tony’s Chocolate Move –
“The majority of cocoa farmers are unable to earn anything approaching a living wage; and aren’t able to feed their families. Children can’t go to school because they would need to work for a month; in order to buy that child’s school uniform,” Morey says. “The economic conditions lead to this child slavery because this is the ‘sensible’ choice for families.”
The price of cocoa on the world market is volatile; and in recent years has dipped as much as 40 per cent. When this happens, farmers usually bear the brunt, Greensmith says.
“The middleman made more while farmers made less,” he says. “When this happened in Holland we ended up paying more to pay the difference; because we’d never want to profit from a drop in price of cocoa; and we want all companies to do that.”
More Insight –
The largest chocolate manufacturers, however, seem more interested in keeping the price of cocoa down; he adds, and Tony’s wants to show them that another way is not only possible, but profitable. And this isn’t the only part of the market that needs to change; Greensmith adds, because UK retailers heavily promote this chocolate, meaning UK consumers are accustomed to paying so little for it.
Overcoming all of this will be tough, Greensmith concedes, but he argues there is no better time than the present; particularly because there’s such an appetite, particularly among younger generations for knowing exactly what their money is being spent on. While consumers are generally used to paying low prices for chocolate, that doesn’t mean they won’t pay more, Greensmith argues.
“Ethics and fair trade isn’t always at the top of shoppers’ minds, but we’ve seen how this understanding can grow. If you can get that understanding there, consumers really do want to act on it.”
Also, Tony’s is now expanding to UK supermarkets, and hopes to shake up the chocolate industry there as well; with a new office of just four employees. Hence, all we can say is kudos to such a great initiative. We hope it is indeed successful and support it in every way.