If you’ve bitten into an oddly-shaped chunk of Tony’s Chocolonely you’ll know how deliciously different it is. But it’s also unusual in another way: it’s on a mission to make chocolate 100% slave free. Here’s the story...
It’s not often that a journalist hands themselves in to the authorities and tries to get prosecuted. But in 2003, that’s exactly what the Dutch TV reporter Teun van der Keuken did. His ‘crime’? Eating a few bars of chocolate.
Teun had been shocked to find out about the prevalence of forced labour in the world’s chocolate industry and set out to investigate. When Dutch prosecutors wouldn’t bring a case against him in court as an accomplice to the bad practices in the chocolate business, Teun went to West Africa to find former child slaves to bear witness.
But for Teun, exposing a horrifying story wasn’t enough. There had to be a way to do things better. And that’s why he decided to produce the first 5,000 Tony’s Chocolonely bars. The milk chocolate bars were Fairtrade, aimed to be slave-free — and were delicious. The bars sold out and Tony’s had to make more.
Changing the game
Teun has since returned to his original role as a campaigning journalist, but the company he founded continues to thrive. In the Netherlands, Tony’s has become one of the country’s most popular brands.
But as far as Tony’s are concerned, it’s not enough for just one company to commit to making chocolate 100% slave-free — they believe the whole industry needs to change.
So Tony’s have set out their principles: making sure they can trace where their cocoa beans come from, paying higher prices and a premium to farmers so that they have a living wage for their whole families, and helping farmers to work together. Tony’s also promise to work with their farmers for the long term and to improve quality and productivity.
It’s an example they have already encouraged other companies in the Netherlands to follow. And their ambitions don’t stop there.
Tony’s have recently moved into two of the world’s biggest markets for chocolate — the UK and the US — where they hope that chocolate-lovers will support their goal of making all chocolate slave-free.
A reminder of those aims is moulded into every bar. When you open a Tony’s bar, it doesn’t look like other chocolate with their neat grids of squares. Tony’s bars have an irregular pattern of different shapes — a reminder each time you help yourself to a piece that the world of chocolate, like so much else, is still unequal. And they’re hoping to change that, chunk by chunk.
Find out more about Tony’s Chocolonely – including where to buy bars near you – on their website here.