frequently asked questions

How did it all begin?

Almost 11 years ago the Dutch investigative reporter Teun (Tony) van de Keuken launched an investigation about the use of slavery within the cocoa industry on his consumer report show Keuringsdienst van Waarde. He was literally shocked to discover that most of the chocolate on supermarket shelves was harvested by slaves—worse, by child slaves. He decided to do something about it. He first approached some of the world’s largest chocolate makers, but they completely ignored him.

So he decided to roll up his sleeves and do it himself. He ate a couple of chocolate bars and then turned himself in to the authorities as a chocolate criminal. By eating chocolate, he was complicit in slavery. But the public prosecutor wouldn’t prosecute him. Teun didn’t give up and went looking for witnesses; victims of chocolate consumption. He found 4 boys who had worked as slaves on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast. They provided evidence against Teun and the 2,136 other chocolate consumers who in the meantime had joined Teun in his stride. On November 29th 2005, still awaiting the judge’s decision, Teun decided to lead by example and make 5,000 Fairtrade chocolate bars. Tony’s Chocolonely was born.

The very first Fair Trade Tony’s Chocolonely bars hit the supermarket shelves in 2005. In 2006 we became legit by registering with the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve been high-flying ever since, but today our number one priority remains the same as it was on day 1: eradicating slavery from the global chocolate industry.

So who is this Tony anyway? And what’s up with the Chocolonely?

Tony is the English equivalent of the Dutch name Teun, and Teun van de Keuken is our founder. Teun is a Dutch TV journalist who kicked off the crusade against (child) slavery within the chocolate industry on the consumer report TV show Keuringsdienst van Waarde. Teun was shocked when he read that slavery still existed in the cocoa sector. He tried to discuss the problem with the large chocolate makers, but they completely ignored him. He stepped up and took action. Teun decided to lead by example and make 5,000 Fairtrade chocolate bars himself. Tony’s Chocolonely was born.

And because he felt like he was the only guy in the chocolate industry that cared about eradicating slavery from the industry, he named his chocolate “Chocolonely”. Get it? The chocolate industry was a lonely place for 100% slave free crusaders!

Why ‘together we make chocolate 100% slave free’?

We’ve been on the road towards slave free chocolate for almost 11 years now. We’ve been supported, encouraged and eaten. We’ve learned a lot, not the least how difficult it is to change the industry. After 10 years we’re still not there yet. Our chocolate is still not 100% slave free, and slave free chocolate is far from being normal.

We can’t do it alone. Alone we make slave free chocolate, but only together we make all chocolate 100% slave free. In the coming years our focus will be on creating a movement of friends who want to join us. We are actively looking for partners to follow our model and we want you to join us too. The more people choose slave free and share our story, the sooner slave free becomes the norm in chocolate. The choice is yours. Are you in?

Do you also consider the environment?

Are puppies cute? Of course we consider the environment!

Due to global as well as regional climate change, global warming and large areas with too little rainfall, the future of cocoa production in parts of West Africa is in immediate danger. So paying attention to the environment is just common sense. We communicate about the environment, as a brand with a social mission, less than some partners may expect from us. Yet we have developed a pretty clear picture of our impact on nature and the environment in Tony’s Foodprint. This involves more than just cocoa (which we already calculated a Foodprint for in 2013).

The main Foodprint insights we uncovered with True Price. We didn’t just look at the energy bills of our chocolate factory but also at how much water which is necessary to grow cocoa and sugar. We calculated how much food the cows eat for our milk powder. And yes, even the greenhouse gas of a healthy cow patty is included. For each bar we don’t know exactly where the powdered milk and sugar comes from so we’ve used averages. For the CO2 footprint, we’ve used the foodprint of Dutch milk powder and German sugar. The bulk of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of milk powder, more than 70%! 8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of the bar itself and the packaging. The latter is less than half of what we expected.

In 2012 we changed all our wrapping to uncoated FSC-recycled paper. Uncoated paper isn’t treated with unnecessary porcelain or chalk, and “FSC-recycled” means the paper is made out of recycled materials. Another positive of “FSC-approved” is that the non-recycled materials in the packaging come from responsibly managed forests. As for the aluminium foil hugging our chocolate, it’s mainly made of recycled materials as well—and it’s thin for a reason. Less is more in recycling.

All sources cardboard containers are now 20% lighter and made from recycled materials. And we’ll keep going. Because in 2016 we’re going to make all our cocoa and packaging completely CO2 neutral. In 2017 and 2018 we’ll take on the remaining ingredients, by continually searching for ways to reduce. Where there is no alternative, we compensate. In order to take the right steps, we are starting up a partnership with the Naga Foundation. This foundation focuses on greening the arid regions of Africa and will at the same time stimulate local economies. In short, we care for our environment: now and in the future.

We’re doing everything we can to be kind to Mother Earth. And it goes without saying that we also encourage our partner farmers to do what they can to be kind to nature as well.

Where does your cocoa come from?

Our cocoa comes from Ghana and Ivory Coast. We have built direct and long-term relationships with the farmers that we work with. We are currently sourcing from 6 different cooperatives and this number will grow as Tony’s grows. All cooperatives added in the future will also be based in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

We want to create change in places where it is most needed, and always in a way that inspires the industry. That’s why we only work in West-Africa, where over 60% of world production is grown. The social problems are most prominent there and it’s also where the biggest choco-giants get their cocoa. If we can work fairly in Ghana and Ivory Coast, then the big companies can too!

Why is your bar unequally divided?

Isn’t it weird that all pieces in a normal chocolate bar are the same size when in the chocolate industry things are shared so unequally? One day it struck us—couldn’t we make a statement about this inequality by dividing our chocolate bars unequally as well? What better way to communicate the inequality of the trade than by calling attention to it with every bite?

The die-hard Tony’s Chocolonely fans have already discovered that each chocolate bar is a mini-map of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. You’ve got a line representing the equator and we’ve managed to squeeze in (from left to right) Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin, Nigeria and a piece of Cameroon. We admit, it’s not entirely geographically accurate—we had to fudge a bit to fit in the hazelnuts—but we did our best. If you missed all of this, we completely understand. But now you know.

Is your chocolate organic?

Our dream is first and foremost 100% slave free chocolate. A lot has still to be done and that’s most important to us. Unfortunately, organic farming doesn’t necessarily have a positive impact on farmer’s incomes in West Africa and does not guarantee social impact. And social impact is our primary focus, though year after year we continue to reduce our impact on the environment.

We think it just makes sense that farmers are also environmentally responsible. So our partners receive training and get help to minimize the use of pesticides and to apply fertilizer professionally and sparingly. And of course there is no place for deforestation.

How is your chocolate different from other certified chocolates?

From the moment our very first bar saw the light of the day we’ve been Fair Trade certified. Ten years ago, Fair Trade was the only initiative that worked for a fairer supply chain and better conditions for the farmers. Sadly it soon became clear that certification alone was not enough. Unfortunately certification isn’t changing the industry.

Certification – whether it’s Fair Trade, Utz or another one, is a very good starting point. But it doesn’t provide any additional action or investment and it’s certainly not a 100% guarantee against child labor, nor does it ensure farmers will escape poverty. Our view on certification is that it’s a bit like a school diploma. It’s an accomplishment to be proud of, but it’s not the end goal! So in addition to certification a lot more has to happen. Companies need to accept accountability and not hide behind excuses. We have therefore defined 5 sourcing principles that we believe every company should honor in their relationship with cocoa farmers:

1.    Pay a fair price
2.    Follow the bean: source traceable cocoa
3.    Go for the long haul: commit to long-term relationships with farmers
4.    Farmers stand strong together: build relationships with cooperatives
5.    Improve quality and productivity together

Did you know that certified chocolate bars (e.g. Fair Trade) also contains non-certified cocoa – and vice versa? If you buy certified chocolate, you can be certain that somewhere in the world the quantity of certified beans needed to make your bar was purchased. It’s just not physically in your bar. It’s really not. We can tell you precisely where the cocoa in our chocolate comes from. We believe that traceability is a critical step toward 100% slave free chocolate.

Is your chocolate gluten free, vegan and/or non-GMO?

In principle our chocolate is gluten free, but in the factory where the chocolate is produced they also produce products containing gluten. If you’re allergic to gluten, consuming our chocolate is at your own risk. If you’re intolerant or don’t want to eat gluten, you’re pretty safe.

Our dark chocolate bar is vegan, but there is a miniscule chance that there is milk or milk protein in the bar. Our milk and dark chocolate bars are made in the same location, so it’s possible that small traces of the milk chocolate of the previous batch remain. That’s why we can’t guarantee 100% that the bar is vegan. It’s up to you!

All our couverture (liquid chocolate) and the ingredients we use are non-GMO. We are not non-GMO certified (yet), because that’s simply not common in Europe. EU legislation requires all food containing above trace levels of GMO to be specifically labelled, so there’s less need for a non-GMO label.

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