Tony's Chocolonely: Raising the chocolate bar for industry change

For years, I’ve been supporting chocolate – and change – maker Tony’s Chocolonely to create their annual report. My kids and my colleagues love that I work for them. Because I always return from meetings with their yummy chocolate in funky flavors. Their bars are a treat, but what inspires me most to work with them is their commitment to creating positive change in the industry. Here’s my take on their key ingredients for positive change!

Crazy people raising the (chocolate) bar

Positive change usually starts with frustration about an issue plus people crazy enough to doing something about it. And this ccompany started just like that. Investigative journalists were shocked to find out how much child labor and slavery there is involved in nearly all chocolate. In 2006, in an attempt to prove that it could be done, they produced 5000 bars of slavery-free chocolate. As this first batch sold out in just a few hours, they turned the experiment into a company.  The company tagline says it all: “Crazy about chocolate, serious about people.”

Partners towards a common goal

A shift to more sustainable business practices is needed at all steps along the chain. From cocoa farmers, chocolate companies and governments, to retailers and consumers. The people at Tony’s understand they cannot transform the cocoa industry by themselves. Tony’s therefore developed a roadmap towards its mission: “Together we make chocolate 100% slave-free”.

The roadmap engages five key actors in the industry to work towards this common goal:

  • Strengthen farmers to increase their income
  • Engage the largest companies in the industry to take action in their supply chains
  • Encourage retailers to leverage their buying power
  • Push governments to adopt and enforce legislation
  • Enable chocofans to raise awareness and spread the message

Scaling up for real movement

To really engage partners along the cocoa chain, Tony’s knows there needs to be a business case every step of the way. Its own story and success provide lots of inspiration to get different parties to act.

At the launch event for its 17/18 annual report that scale became very clear:

  • Over 5,000 farmers benefit from the special premium Tony’s pays, nearly 1,000 farmers are involved in awareness-raising activities to prevent unwanted child labor and slavery;
  • The Netherlands’ largest retailer Albert Heijn announcedit will use Tony’s principles of cooperation for 100% slave-free chocolate for its very successful private label chocolate brand Delicata. World leading chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut supports the change process;
  • 5,000 chocofans joined the party, over 8,500 people support Tony’s mission as Serious Friends;
  • And the brand became the market leader in the Netherlands with a market share of 19%. Net revenue grew by 23% to nearly € 45 million and a net profit margin of 4.5%.

Relentless ambition for chocolate and change

Nice numbers for a company that produced its first bar of chocolate just 12 years ago… But they know there’s still a lot of work to be done. Therefore, Team Tony’s continues to work – and party – very hard to increase its own impact by expanding the business to other countries and continuing to drive collaboration in partnership with many others.


Ready to scale-up? Do you have Category Leadership potential?

Having a social start-up means you want to change the world. Your product or service has the potential to create positive change for many. But to have real impact you need to scale-up.

How do you know if your brand is ready for the next step? That is an interesting question. Luckily The Terrace has developed a tool to assess the health of your social brand and it makes clear what you need to do to reach your goal.

A fundamental aspect you need to look at is the so called ‘’Power in the mind’’ of your brand. We have identified two critical checks to see if you are able to get a positive and prominent position in your market.

How single minded is your story?

To get your proposition across you need an extremely clear and simple story. Too many startups lose traction when their fundamental story becomes blurry. A simple but highly effective test is to check if your message can come from one type of personality.

Likewise, a defined corporate culture and a simple and clearly communicated strategy is necessary. You will be amazed by the high rotation of employees at social enterprises. Many times, this is due to unsatisfied employees, having different expectations of the brand and the company. They are disappointed that it was not clear enough how they could help the brand to have more impact.

Important questions you can ask yourself are: How focused is the brand story and sales pitch? How clear are the company values?

Do you have Category Leadership potential?

  • Most social enterprises are too polite. To have impact, you need to shoot for the stars. You must claim some sort of category leadership and act on it.
  • We loved it when Urgenda was the first social enterprise ever to sue the state. It was bold, it was right, and it was a 100% on brand. The same for the bid of VANDEBRON on the Hemkade.
  • Having a clear definition of your category is mandatory. A short cut to get attention is to point out the deadlock in the development of your category and show what you are doing about it.
  • Two important questions you can ask yourself: How many real category leadership actions have been executed? How fit is the company leadership to climb on the stage?

Keep an eye on our website and soon you’ll learn more about how to assess if you’re ready to scale-up!