Spotlight: World Chocolate Day! Is Ethical and Slave-Free Chocolate Possible?

The chocolate industry is a tough and competitive business that involves harrowing practices such as human trafficking, child-labour, and slavery. These atorcities tend to result from big chocolate companies trying to keep costs down while maintaining a closed curtain in front of their productions.

The Problem

Western African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. In countries like the Ivory Coast and Ghana, cocoa makes up 60% of the country’s exports. Because these countries suffer so much poverty, families often have to send children away to make money. An average cocoa worker makes less than $2 a day and often will not see their families after they are “sold”. Before leaving, they are promised that the working conditions are fair and the pay is good, but you’d be fooling yourself to call it anything other than modern slavery. Children as young as 5 years old are found on these plantations. The demand for cheap chocolate comes at a steep and often invisible price. If you want to learn more about child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry I highly recommend you read about it here.

The Change

In 2003, Dutch journalist Teun (Tony) van de Keuken was investigating the use of slavery within the cocoa industry and was shocked to discover the large-scale slave practices that pervade – most of which involved children. He approached large chocolate corporations to try and get them to change their practices, but was largely ignored. Instead, he did what many other humans would do: he took matters into his own hands. In 2005, he made 5 000 fair trade and slave-free chocolate bars that were sold on supermarket shelves. He hasn’t stopped working for the cause since. His chocolate company has since changed hands, but they still strive to change the chocolate industry into a slave-free and fair-trade market.

When I first found out about these chocolates I immediately got a friend of mine who lives in The Netherlands to get some for me. There are a few things that are very unique about these chocolate bars that I would like to point out.

  1. The Weight
    The bar itself weighs in at a staggering 170g (average Cadbury and Nestle bars are 45-50g). Packing these things in my minuscule suitcase was easy because of their uniform shape, but goodness did they add some heft. I’d like to think that they chose to make them so heavy not only to reduce packaging waste, but to also remind the consumer of how different their chocolate bars are from other companies in terms of quality.

    Tony’s Chocolonely bars are split unevenly to call attention to inequality in the chocolate industry.

  2. The Design
    There’s something about this layout that intrigues me (but that might be mildly infuriating to some); the fact that it is not uniformly split. The reason behind this division was to call attention to the inequality that exists in the chocolate industry: What better way to communicate the inequality of the trade than by calling attention to it with every bite?” Some astute consumers have discovered that the layout is a mini-map of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Neat!

    From left to right: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin, Nigeria and a piece of Cameroon fit into every Chocolonely bar.

  3. Whimsical-ness
    Look at this packaging. I mean are you really seeing how Willy Wonka-esque it is? Big, playful letters with eccentric and bold emphasis, along with striking colours, make these look adorable together. All of the packaging is made from 100% recycled paper and is wrapped in a very thin coating of foil to reduce waste. They also release a variety of limited time flavours. For Valentine’s Day 2017 they released a ValenTony bar; a mixture of dark chocolate, meringue from free-range eggs and chunks of cherry. I’m in love. Their newest flavour is a mix of raspberry and….melon! Only available in select stores in The Netherlands, unfortunately.
Tony's Chocolonely

Tony’s Chocolonely has spent 12 years making their chocolate through ethical and slave-free ways.

What I love the most about the company is their passion to change and change the chocolate industry. Inside the wrapper it contains a roadmap of all the steps they’ve taken to change the chocolate industry.

“Today our number one priority remains the same as it was on day 1: eradicating slavery from the global chocolate industry.”


If you know of any other amazing chocolate companies feel free to leave a comment and let us know! We love a good excuse to sample chocolate.


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About the Author

Kim is an avid traveler and freelance writer with a degree in professional writing and rhetoric. Her desire to see the world "with eyes unclouded" is expressed in her personality and writing. She hopes to spread awareness on international issues and sustainability.

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