Tony’s Chocolonely likes to do things differently, this we know already from the way it produces and markets its distinctive ‘slave free’ chocolate bars.
Since 2013, it has hosted a ‘fair’ in Amsterdam to launch the company’s Annual Fair Report, usually attended by thousands of friends, consumers and supporters of the brand from all over the world - including stakeholders from across the chocolate chain, as well as cocoa farmers.
This year’s event was slightly different as it was held virtually, but the Dutch brand still managed to pull off an amazing, immersive, multi-media event and raised the bar not only with its mission to end child labour in the chocolate industry but also on how to create an all-digital setting, with interactive fairground attractions and live-streamed appearances from special guests.
In a night filled with surprises, the biggest came from US rapper Pharrell Williams, who announced he is not only teaming up with Tony’s to partner with his Black Ambition programme for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, but has also designed a special chocolate bar for the company that will be out in the new year.
Thecla Shaeffer, Tony’s Head of Marketing, said: “Impact should be harnessed using the connections we already have. It’s about tackling the things we can change with the resources we have now. The Black Ambition bar encapsulates Tony’s belief that the root causes of inequality in the US and in West Africa stem from colonial and post-colonial power structures. Creating fair opportunities in people’s everyday lives is one huge way to make systemic change. Pharrell and all of us at Tony’s understand that.”
UK actor and activist Idris Elba also joined the party to continue his support for Tony’s mission, this time wearing his UN Agricultural Development Goodwill Ambassador hat. Earlier in the year, the Luther and The Wire star was the voice behind the company’s new video calling for a fairer cocoa industry.
The night was helmed by Henk Jan Beltman, Tony’s Chocolonely Chief Chocolate Officer, who's passion, commitment and drive remained undiminished in the virtual setting as he reflected on the company’s activities and achievements over the past 12 months, and sharing Tony’s plans for the future.
“This year, the Tony’s fair theme is ‘Let’s raise the bar for social change’. As a company whose focus is social impact first, and chocolate-making second, Tony’s Chocolonely is driven by respect for humanity and equality to create a tomorrow that is just and fair for everyone. Together, we want to raise the bar for social change,” he told the global online audience.
Writing in Tony’s Annual Fair Report 2019-120, Beltman said, as an international impact company, it does not walk away from its responsibility and “we have to stand up together against (racial) inequality and we have to take care of each other and our planet, please, we only have her on loan.”
Beltman said Tony’s continues to make impact in West Africa. “And even though we haven’t realized two out of three financial KPIs (50% revenue growth year on year, 40% gross margin, 4% net result), we’ve grown solidly in revenue over the past 12 months.
“Just before Covid-19 struck, we brought Verlinvest and JamJar on board as investors. That led to a full ‘cashbox’ and gives me confidence in sustainable international growth.”
He told the online gathering that plans for its own chocolate factory, Tony’s Chocolonely Chocolate Circus (TCCC), has had to be put on hold because of COVID-19, but the partnership with supplier Barry Callebaut has been anchored for the long term. The company also has new retailer after striking a deal with Aldi supermarket.
Tony’s main source of income (69%) was the Dutch market, but said it has also managed to grow in other markets. In the US, it nearly doubled sales from €5.6m ($6.8m) to €10.3m.
The Fair also heard from Ben Goldsmith, head of its UK, operation who said its second year in the UK resulted in €8.7m in sales, more than doubling its launch year of €3.2m.
Total revenues from Germany (a new market) totalled €2.3m this year and the company said that, working together with distributing partners in the rest of Europe, it was able to grow its business in Belgium, Scandinavia and Duty-Free Travel Retail from €5.7m to €6m.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the company reported a net profit of €261,300 (0.3%), up on last year’s 0.0% profit, which was almost a badge of honour for a company that maintains its mission is for social justice above all else.
Tony’s’ Chocolonely petition to make 100% slave-free chocolate the law in Europe and the US also continues to gather pace with over 22,000 signatures to date.
Dutch television presenter Sophie Hilbrand hosted the event, which included presentations by ‘doughnut economics’ expert Kate Raworth, ‘Utopia for Realists’ author Rutger Bregman and Ghanaian filmmaker David Boanuh, along with spoken-word artist Akwasi.
- Read the full Tony’s Annual Fair Report here.