The Dutch confectionery company Tonys Chocolonely is best known for their chunky uneven bars of chocolate, which they use to serve as a reminder of the inequality behind the cocoa-based treats we enjoy.

The company is no stranger to publicity, stunts which sometimes land them in hot water. This appears to be the case with their latest marketing gimmick, which has left some people with an empty feeling.

Consumers who purchased the company’s advent calendar saw their children’s excitement turn to disappointment and confusion upon opening day 8 of the calendar. Instead of their usual chocolate block, they found a truly Choco lonely experience. A window containing nothing inside. Their customers were not impressed, as one review below left on a website sums it up.

Tony’s explained in a tweet that the chocolate was intentionally left out of day 8 to tell a story and was replaced by two extra chocolates on days 9 and 25.

Disgruntled customers quickly turned to social media to voice their outrage, with some stating that the stunt left their children “close to tears”. Though the missing chocolate garnered its fair share of complaints, the message wasn’t lost on everyone. Some people welcomed the move as “a great way to highlight the situation, especially during a season when so many of us are surrounded by so much.”

Some stating the stunt left their children “Close to Tears”

The company went on to explain.

In Ghana and the Ivory Coast, at least 1.56 million children work under illegal conditions because the price being paid for cocoa is too low. Worst still, at least 30,000 adults and children are forced to work. We don’t think that’s ok.

Tony’s Chocolonely

Yet, Tony’s acknowledged this caused distress to some children and later issued an apology.

Despite the mixed reaction, it is clear there were some considerations that the ethically motivated chocolate company missed. Tony’s has acknowledged that they failed to consider the impact that the empty window would have on some customers, as well as the resulting work generated for their retail partners.

The company has apologised and welcomed feedback from its community on how to better raise awareness of its mission in future. They said.

“We would like to welcome all feedback on how to make our products more accommodating for neurodivergent people going forward, as it was not our intention to cause this issue.

While the message carried good intentions, we think the Christmas period might not have been the best time to replace children’s chocolates with lessons on the inequalities of the cocoa trade.

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