Belgin investment firm Verlinvest and London-based venture capital fund JamJar have taken a minority share in Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch chocolate company aiming to make all chocolate 100% slave-free.

“With the investment of Verlinvest and JamJar, we shall accelerate in achieving our goal of making all chocolate worldwide 100% slave-free,” said Henk Jan Beltman, chief chocolate officer for Tony’s Chocolonely. “To accomplish this, it is important that we can continue to grow internationally so that more and more people – farmers, consumers, retailers, big chocolate companies and governments alike – can be involved in our mission.

Tony’s Chocolonely, founded 15 years ago by Dutch TV show Keuringsdienst van Waarde on a mission to uncover issues of forced (child) labor and modern slavery in the cocoa industry, has had a steep growth curve and is now the chocolate bar market leader in the Netherlands. 

In addition to growing the brand internationally, the investment of Verlinvest and JamJar will also be used to develop Tony’s Chocolonely Chocolate Circus in Zaandam, The Netherlands. With this chocolate factory, which will double as a visitor’s center, Tony’s Chocolonely expects to host 500,000 chocolate fans annually who will be familiarized with inequality in the chocolate industry. 

Verlinvest, the investment vehicle of the Belgian family shareholder of AB-InBev, has a track record of investing in sustainable consumer brands with interest in, amongst others, Oatly and Vita Coco. JamJar is the private equity fund of the founders of innocent drinks.

“We are delighted to be backing a category-defining innovator and leader in ethical business practices,” said Ben Black of Verlinvest. “Tony’s Chocolonely is a fun and engaging brand, offering a serious and practical solution to an unfair and unequal supply-chain. We see huge potential to accelerate in bringing the brand to an international audience and driving change on a global scale.” 

Adam Balon adds: “Over the course of only a few years, Henk Jan has created a fantastic brand and has set a new standard for the chocolate industry. I look forward to helping him and the entire team at Tony’s Chocolonely create a truly global impact brand. I couldn’t be more excited.” 

Black and Balon will join the supervisory board of Tony’s Chocolonely after approval of the investment by ACM. More than half (51%) of the voting power remains in Beltman’s hands. Current shareholders Maurice Dekkers (founder) and Eveline Raymans (former managing director of Tony’s Chocolonely) will retain their shares. Fifteen percent of the company will remain in the possession of Team Tony’s.