Unwrapping the truth about poverty within the chocolate industry, Ben Greensmith, the UK and Ireland Country Manager for Tony’s Chocolonely, breaks down the complex issue at the Bread & Jam 2.0 Virtual festival.
Food for thought…
According to Tony’s Chocolonely annual FAIR Report:
In Ivory Coast, the average cocoa farmer earns an average of $0.78 per day. Nowhere near enough to live off, let alone support a family – not even in West Africa.
Worse still, a study conducted in 2018 Global Slavery Index confirms that at least 30,000 people are victims of modern slavery in the cocoa industry in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
A little bit of history
In 2003, Dutch journalist and presenter of TV program ‘Keuringsdienst van Waarde (KVW),’ Teun van de Keuken, read a book about how child labour and modern slavery is still very much a part of the cocoa trade. He used his platform on KVW to publicise the dark secrets by eating a number of chocolate bars from leading manufacturers and declaring himself a chocolate criminal, turning himself over to the Dutch authorities. However, the public prosecutor couldn’t identify the direct link between him eating the bar to the children who were forced into labour.
Whilst waiting for the judge’s decision, Tuen decided to launch his own 100% slave-free product in an attempt to prove to chocolate manufacturers that it is possible. Tony’s therefore launched as a PR stunt, Teun wanted to show there was a different way to produce chocolate, with no compromise in the value chain, he never set out to create a global chocolate brand. However, Tony’s picked up momentum, becoming Holland’s number one chocolate company. But it’s not stopping there… Tony’s Chocolonely is the instigator and propeller behind the movement to eradicate child labour and slavery associated with cocoa.
Tony’s wants to create awareness for the unequal share of the cocoa industry through leading by example. Ben epitomises this in a quote taken from founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room… We want to be the mosquito in the room.”
They have a strict no-paid media policy, working with a pull rather than a push marketing model. Ben describes how “it’s a complicated message, we prefer to have one-on-one conversations. The chocolate is a means to achieve the goal to inspire change.”
If you’ve ever picked up a Tony’s Chocolonely bar you’d have noticed how irregular the pieces are, going against the generic ‘excel spreadsheet’ style divide. This is not by accident or down to a machinery malfunction. The shapes represent the inequality of chocolate companies, the bar (like the industry) is unequally divided. Ben says that “they tell the story in its purest form of the unequal nature of the cocoa industry. West Africa is actually hidden in the design, a little nod to the farmers.”
“It’s a complicated message, we prefer to have one-on-one conversations. The chocolate is a means to achieve the goal to inspire change.”
Create a movement
Ben describes how Tony’s is focusing on the consumers who have the buying power, as if they know their favourite brands are endorsing slavery, they can help force the change. It is then down to the government to listen, and force through legislation.
The future of the cocoa farmers is dictated by us the consumer, and the leading global chocolate manufacturing giants. United, we can stop child slavery on cocoa farms and the wage discrepancies which leave families of eight surviving on 0.7 US dollars a week.
Tony’s have also made their values accessible to everyone by publicising its open chain resourcing principles; companies can educate themselves, enabling those willing, to break down their own deep-set irresponsible processes.
Tony’s wants to: ensure that the farmers and cooperatives get at least five years sale at a higher price. The cocoa farmers get paid a price that enables them to earn a living income. Trade is direct and on equal footing with cocoa farmers and cooperatives. It wants to professionalise farms by working together. And to improve productivity with less dependency on cocoa by investing in knowledge and skills.
Tony’s really is crazy about chocolate, it has invested in the product for it to be the best it can be whilst limiting its impact everywhere, without compromise. It has created unique and intriguing flavours to pique the interest of the consumer to ensure it gets into people’s shopping baskets. Tony’s is also very serious about people as its truest aim is to eradicate enslavement which is so deeply rooted in the sourcing of cocoa for chocolate production in the western world. It’s not your typical company, Tony’s exists to end slavery in the chocolate industry; an impact company that makes chocolate, and not the other way around.
Bread & Jam came about through the shared vision of two food founders, Jason Gibb & Tara Mei, passionate about shaking up the way the food and drink industry works. Every year, 16,000 food and drink brands emerge into the UK market and yet, 90% of them don't make it past their first year of trading. Bread & Jam is a celebration of the food and drink industry's entrepreneurial spirit. There are many reasons for a food business to cease trading but the absence of opportunity, information and industry support should no longer one of them.