Tony’s Chocolonely is one of the world’s fastest growing chocolatiers. But its boss says selling chocolate isn’t the main goal—shaking up the entire cocoa industry is

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It each began when  Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken, aliases “Tony,” turned himself successful for being a “chocolate criminal” successful 2003. His crime? Paying for cocoa that utilized exploitative practices on nan cocoa worth chain. After a trial, he wasn’t recovered blameworthy of nan said crime, but he made it his ngo to move cocoa into a conveyance that could dispersed consciousness astir each nan things that needed to alteration successful nan cocoa industry.    

And so, successful 2005, Tony’s Chocolonely was born—with its agleam packaging and punchy messaging. Nearly 20 years on, small has changed astir nan tone of nan brand. Loud trading stunts are still cardinal to what it does because it turns people’s attraction to nan little talked-about, pressing issues.

Smart branding to take connected nan manufacture Goliaths

Take Tony’s 2021 advent calendar, for instance. The institution deliberately near retired nan cocoa connected 1 of nan days arsenic a measurement to underscore nan inequality successful nan cocoa industry. 

That drew a batch of attention—and ire—but ultimately, achieved nan intent of alerting consumers to nan halfway problem, Tony’s U.K. and Ireland leader Ben Greensmith told Fortune.

“It did a monolithic occupation for america successful position of raising marque consciousness and rumor awareness” he said. “So we trust connected stunts to summation attention.” 

Tony’s attack whitethorn beryllium different for a comparatively new, unassuming cocoa maker—but nan results speak for themselves. The Netherlands-based institution is now a large arena successful its location state pinch astir 20% of nan marketplace share, but besides successful nan U.K., wherever it’s now nan 4th astir celebrated cocoa successful Britain pursuing Galaxy, Lindt and Cadbury, according to Nielsen data. In conscionable nether 5 years, Tonys’ turnover successful nan U.K. has deed £40 cardinal ($50.5 million) and it’s nan fastest increasing confectionery marque successful nan country. The institution is besides reaching chocolate-lovers successful nan United States wherever they now waste astatine Walmart stores.

chocolates connected display

Tony’s Chocolonely cocoa bars organized successful a shop successful London.

Courtesy of Tony’s Chocolonely

Tonys’ accelerated maturation tin sometimes consciousness for illustration it’s eclipsing what nan marque stands for. But pinch a operation of smart packaging and bold campaigns, it keeps its intent astatine nan apical of consumers’ minds. For instance, Its chocolates are unequally divided (unlike different bars which are divided up successful symmetric squares aliases rectangles) to service arsenic a changeless reminder of nan inequality that comes pinch sourcing cocoa.

“We’re a mini player. [We] don’t person nan clout, nan buying powerfulness of these large cocoa companies,” Greensmith said.    

Cost challenges

Tony’s group itself isolated pinch tongue-in-cheek trading stunts, but it continues to look nan aforesaid pains arsenic nan remainder of nan cocoa industry.   

The cocoa manufacture has been deed by some mediocre harvest harvests and rising demand astatine nan aforesaid time. That’s sent cocoa prices soaring arsenic producers person passed nan higher earthy worldly costs on to consumers—and Tony’s hasn’t been spared. The chocolatier raised prices by 7% crossed Europe (but not successful nan U.K. yet—it’s unclear why), but Greensmith admits it’s been a situation to guarantee that trickles down to nan farmers.

“The measurement that cocoa is traded… each of nan money is being made by companies successful nan middle, and farmers are seeing nary of nan benefits,” nan Tony’s U.K. leader said. “As immoderate business, we person to make a profit and do nan correct thing.”

Another challenge, unsocial to Tony’s, has been a consequence of its bold marketing. As portion of its “Sweet Solution” run first launched successful 2021, nan institution introduced a drawstring of look-alike cocoa wrappers akin to those of different recognizable large cocoa companies to raise consciousness astir kid labour successful nan cocoa proviso chain. The move very quickly sparked a guidance from nan companies that were implicitly mimicked, which yet resulted successful nan bars being removed from U.K. supermarkets.  

But past period again, Tony’s recovered itself successful nan crosshairs of Mondelez successful Germany and Austria for mimicking their packaging successful 1 of their advertisement campaigns. The Dutch institution is appealing nan injunction, but says it stands by nan origin it was trying to tie attraction to. 

“We’ve sewage to show that we tin do each these things and make a profit arsenic good because we person to show those large cocoa companies that you tin person a commercially viable proposition, make money, do nan correct thing, and turn a really successful cocoa company,” Greensmith explained.

In its ain way, contempt nan stumbles, Tony’s activity has helped turn rumor consciousness successful nan U.K. connected nan exploitative ways of nan cocoa manufacture from 10% to 40% successful 5 years, marketplace investigation patient IPSOS found. 

Tony’s spends astir 7% of its gross connected impact-related costs, including paying a higher cocoa value that helps farmers make a surviving income to prolong their farms. That’s why, Greensmith insists, Tony’s isn’t for illustration nan mean chocolatier.

“We aren’t a cocoa company, we opportunity that we are an effect institution that makes chocolate. So nan effect comes first,” he said. “It’s why we exist.”

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