Thecla Schaeffer_Tonys ChocolonelyTony’s Chocolonely’s latest collection aims to draw attention to an issue that continues to trouble the chocolate industry: illegal child labor.

Last month, the company launched four bars resembling top products on the market with the goal of illustrating that child labor still exists within the global cocoa supply chain. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a public-private agreement meant to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

Thecla Schaeffer, Tony’s head of marketing, recently spoke to Candy Industry about the development of the Sweet Solution collection, the response from customers and retailers, and its mission to achieve 100 percent slave-free chocolate.

CI: When did Tony’s Chocolonely begin developing the Sweet Solution campaign? What was the goal behind it?

TS: We have been working on this particular project for over a year, but honestly, the essence of the project is what we’ve already been doing for 15 years, every day: Creating awareness for the serious problems in the chocolate industry while leading by examples and inspiring others to act. 

Tony’s mission is simple: Together we want to make 100% slave-free the norm in chocolate. Not just ours, but all chocolate. We know that it’s possible, but it requires all stakeholders to take their responsibility and act, from chocolate fans to chocolate makers, retailers to governments.

Unfortunately, 20 years after the industry promised to eradicate illegal child labor, it is still widely prevalent. So, we launched these four “look-alike” chocolate bars to raise awareness – once again – for the fact that companies are not legally obliged to do their due diligence to trace violations of human rights in their supply chains, let alone solve them. Which is why Tony’s calls on all chocolate fans to be part of the “Sweet Solution” and sign its petition to support the need for human rights legislation that holds companies legally accountable for modern slavery and illegal child labor in their supply chains. The message is clear: The time to act is now, go sign the petition!

CI: How did Tony’s select the other products on the market it used as inspiration for the Sweet Solution collection?

TS: We have picked four of the world’s most iconic chocolate bars that source cocoa from West Africa and supported the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001 to eradicate illegal child labor from the chocolate supply chain. They represent all bars in the industry that we wish we could eat with the confidence that there is no bitter truth hiding in chocolate.

CI: How did Tony’s source the cocoa for this collection? Does Tony’s work with farmers directly?

TS: The bars are made following Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles – just like our regular products: using 100% traceable cocoa beans, paying a higher price, supporting strong farmers by strengthening cooperatives, engaging in long-term direct partnerships, and focusing on cocoa quality and productivity to optimize yields. We designed these Sourcing Principles to create a fairer cocoa supply chain and address the root cause of modern slavery and illegal child labor: poverty.

CI: Were there any concerns about trademark infringement? Are there any measures Tony’s took to diminish those concerns?

TS: Not really, because while we were inspired by the world’s most iconic chocolate brands, the bars we created are in fact very different: from the way they’ve been made following Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles to their boldly branded wrappers and their chunky tablet format – these nougat pyramids, wafer strips, nutty crunch circles and caramel cookie strips are unmistakably Tony’s.

CI: What has the response been from customers around the world?

TS: We’ve had so many positive reactions and backing from our chocolate fans and customers around the world – the feedback has been overwhelmingly sympathetic and supportive! 

It’s exciting to see that consumers do care and want the industry to change for the better. Which is why human rights legislation is such an important step, which we’ll continue to demand until we see the necessary laws in place.

CI: What has the response been from retailers? Have some had a reaction like Sainsbury’s in the UK?

TS: Our retailers have been very supportive and encouraging – just like us, they see the need for the industry to change as a whole.

CI: Are there any plans to expand the Sweet Solution collection beyond the four original bars?

TS: No, this was a limited edition with the sole purpose to raise awareness for the cause and ask our choco fans to sign Tony’s petition to support the need for human rights legislation.

CI: What do you hope happens as a result of introducing this collection?

TS: We hope to reach as many people as possible and encourage them to sign our petition, supporting the need for human rights legislation. We want to create awareness for the issues in chocolate, an essential pillar in our roadmap to achieve our mission. Ultimately, everything we do is related to our mission to make all chocolate 100% slave free.

CI: Are there any initiatives Tony’s has taken to mitigate child labor in the chocolate supply chain that you’d like to highlight?

TS: Our business model and the way we source cocoa were designed to create a fairer cocoa supply chain and address the root cause of modern slavery and illegal child labor: poverty. But it’s not enough if it’s only us following our Sourcing Principles. Which is why we’ve developed Tony’s Open Chain, a collaborative industry-led initiative available to all chocolate makers so they can do the same and that together we can make all chocolate slave free.