In 2003 during a year-long probe into the cocoa industry, Teun Van de Keuken, a popular, Dutch broadcast journalist, made the alarming discovery that at least 20 percent of all cocoa farm owners in the Ivory Coast, supplier of much of the world’s cocoa, engage in slave-labor practices. Van de Keuken, an avid chocolate eater, was struck with guilt, feeling he was inadvertently complicit in ─ what he described as ─ chocolate slavery.
In a highly publicized effort to shed light on the situation, Van de Keuken labeled himself a “chocolate criminal” and handed himself over to Dutch police. Slavery charges were successfully brought against the journalist, but in a turn of events, in October 2007, an Amsterdam court withdrew his case.
During his temporary brush with the law, Van de Keuken implored Dutch consumers not to buy chocolate tainted by slave-labor. Convinced there should be a slavery-free chocolate alternative on the market, the journalist pleaded, unsuccessfully, with several major chocolate companies to produce a slavery-free chocolate bar. Unphased by rejection, Van de Keuken decided to form a new chocolate company, one that insisted on sourcing slavery-free cocoa! In Amsterdam in 2005, amid publicity from Van de Keuken’s famous criminal case, Tony’s Chocolonely — a chocolate company offering consumers a slavery-free chocolate choice — was born.
There was only one problem. Soon after the Tony’s bar went on the market, another chocolate company brought suit against Tony’s Chocolonely. Their claim, that is was impossible to verify that cocoa from West Africa is 100 percent slavery-free, even Fair Trade cocoa, cast doubts as to whether Tony’s could continue to market a 100 percent slavery-free bar. A judge sided with Tony’s and granted them permission to label and market their bars as 100 percent slavery-free. However, after probing deeper into the chocolate slavery situation in West Africa, the folks at Tony’s were no longer convinced that every last cocoa bean going into the production of their chocolate was, indeed, slavery-free.
Tony’s quickly adapted their label but not their mission. The Tony’s Chocolonely slogan ─ “on the way to 100% slavery-free chocolate” ─ means Tony’s is 100 percent committed to ending chocolate slavery and to giving customers a slavery-free chocolate choice.