Dutch confectionery brand, Tony’s Chocolonely has been making waves in the industry as the advocate for ethical and slave-free chocolate. Their marketing stunts typically aim to raise awareness of the unethical practices sometimes used in the production of chocolate. However, the campaigns have received mixed responses, and Tony’s has recently been coming under public fire.
However, there’s another reason the chocolate brand attracts criticism. They outsource part of their manufacturing to Cocoa conglomerate Barry Callebaut, who themselves, are accused of allowing child labour in their supply chain. It raises concerns: how can a company claim to be ethical and use the facilities of another company accused of failing to support children’s rights?
In early 2021, Tony’s Chocolonely was dropped from the Slave-Free Chocolate list for this reason.
A recent article on their website attempted to address the elephant in the room and clarify this subject. Their explanation is divided into 3 points, and we find the final point of most interest.
Tony’s beans are separate from other chocolate brands
The company started by making it very clear that their beans are processed completely separate from other brand’s chocolate.
To make this possible, we pay more than all the other choco brands at Barry Callebauts processing facilities to have our very own storage vessels and production lanes onsite. That means we’re in full control of our supply chain from start to finish.
Tony’s wants to dispel any myths that their Cocoa beans are the same, or mixed with other brand’s beans.
Make no mistake — we may be shacking up under the same roof, but our beans never ever come in contact with any other choco brands’ beans whatsoever
Tony’s uses a graphic to give a visual representation of this process. Using this to demonstrate how their Cocoa is choco-lonely as they put it, because it is kept apart from the other beans.
Tony’s Claim Their Cocoa is 100% traceable
Tony’s claim to pride themselves on knowing exactly where their beans are from and how they are processed. According to them, the bean-to-bar approach is important, as they “know how much premium to pay each farmer and can remediate any cases of child labor that occur.”
The question remains, however; if the brand is built on the promise of ethical chocolate, why are they partnered with a company accused of exploiting children for profit?
The partnership allows them to scale their mission
“We work with Barry Callebaut to make this mission possible on a global scale”, the company explains
The argument for the partnership is that it allows them to expand their ethically sourced Cocoa mission on a global scale, a feat that is only possible using the facilities of industry giants like Barry Callebaut who, along with Cargill, form a large part of global Cocoa production.
The company says, “Setting up shop right beside Big Choco means that we’re able to prove first-hand that it is possible to be processing substantial volumes of Cocoa beans and still be 100% traceable and slave free. And so, we continue to scale up our production globally.”
The basis of the partnership clearly hinges on two key principles; using Big Choco’s facilities, enables global expansion of their mission, and doing so also brings the opportunity to influence large companies from within.
Many campaigners won’t be convinced, but at Bartalks we agree in the principle of their argument, if not always in their execution.
Tony’s does not always do everything right, but we can understand that running a large commercial chocolate business is different from being a small chocolate maker.
If you want to make a bigger change in the industry, this isn’t going to happen from the influence of smaller companies, no matter how much we might like that to be true. It needs a brand that is front and centre on supermarket shelves.
So, while we accept that Tony’s needs to use the scale of Barry Callebaut for their manufacturing, we hope the company improves their messaging on ethical chocolate consumption, and is able to exert some influence on Barry Callebaut so that the lessons can scale, along with chocolate sales