"The chocolate industry isn't equal. Until the profits are shared more equally, and there is more equality between the stakeholders in the chain, our chocolate will stay unequally divided too."
Increasingly we are becoming more concerned about where our food comes from and how it is produced. Tony's Chocolonely is a brand which aims to bring about slave free chocolate. Women in the Food Industry co-founder Mecca Ibrahim caught up with Nicola Matthews, their Marketing manager in the UK and Ireland to find out more about Tony's work and what they are doing to make their slave-free chocolate mission global.
Nicola gave some background about Tony and how he came about with the name Chocolonely and said: "Tony is actually Teun which is the Dutch name for Tony. Tony's was started in Amsterdam by a group of journalists who were researching a TV show called Food Unwrapped. They delved into the food industry to try to uncover some of the more shady things in different food supply chains. When they investigated cocoa and chocolate they discovered there were 2.1 million children who work illegally on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which is where 60% of our cocoa comes from. There's also at least 30,000 instances of human trafficking and modern slavery, purely because the big chocolate companies don't pay enough for their cocoa and the farmers are living in systemic poverty. Tony and his journalist team wanted to speak to the companies to see what they could do to change things.
"At that time none of the big companies were interested, so they decided to do something themselves and change the industry from within. They created their own chocolate bar with the mission of being 100% slave free and they called it Tony's Chocolonely as it was his lonely fight against inequality in the chocolate industry".
When asked how the uneven segments of chocolate came about? Nicola replied:
"We used to be shaped like a normal chocolate bar at the start. But we decided that it didn't really represent what we were about. As the chocolate industry isn't equally divided we decided that our bars shouldn't be either. The biggest source of feedback we get from people is that they love our chocolate but they are frustrated that they can't share it equally. But that's exactly the point. The chocolate industry isn't equal. Until the profits are shared more equally, and there is more equality between the stakeholders in the chain, our chocolate will stay unequally divided too."
The company's biggest mission is encouraging other chocolate companies to become more responsible. Nicola explained their work in this area:
"We can't change the industry alone. We need consumers, retailers, governments and, most importantly, other big chocolate companies to join our mission too. We have developed five sourcing principles, and five rules for producing slave-free chocolate, which can be accessed through Tony's Open Chain. Any chocolate company or manufacturer can access to see our principles and our secrets.
The great thing is that people are already doing this. We have number one market share in the Netherlands and their biggest retailer is Albert Heijn and last year they announced that with their private label chocolate range - Delicata - they were going to join our mission and become our first mission ally. This has significantly increased the amount of cocoa sourced according to our sourcing principles. This means farmers are earning a living income. They have a 5 year contract with us, there's a fully traceable supply chain so we can see & take responsibility of where the beans are coming from. This is what we are aiming for in the UK too as that's where we can make the most impact".
Tony's Chocoloney is now one of the best-selling chocolate bars the Netherlands, Nicola was asked if she felt it was possible to reach the same dizzy heights in the UK. She replied:
"I'd like to think so. The UK chocolate market is huge so we do have a long way to go. But our ambition is that we grow large enough for retailers, government and other big chocolate companies to take notice of us and what we are doing. Also so that enough consumers are rallied enough behind us and are asking big chocolate brands what they are doing to make sure there's no illegal labour in their supply chains. If we can just make enough noise and impact to get all of those key stake holders to start doing something, it's the quickest way for us to have an impact. Number one market share isn't our goal, what's more important is working to make slave-free chocolate the norm."
You can read the full interview with Nicola Matthews Marketing Manager of Tony's Chocolonely on Women in The Food Industry.