Tony’s Chocolonely boss on U.K. growth, shaking up the choco industry with bold marketing stunts


It all started when Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken, or “Tony,” volunteered to be a “chocolate criminal” in 2003. His crime? Paying for chocolate that uses oppressive products in the cocoa value chain. After the trial, he was not found guilty of the alleged crime, but he made it his mission to turn chocolate into a vehicle that would spread awareness of all the things that needed to change in the cocoa industry.

And so, in 2005, Tony’s Chocolonely was born—with its bright writing and powerful message. Almost 20 years later, little has changed in the spirit of the nation. Loudness ads are still very important in what they do because they turn people’s attention to less talked about, compelling content.

Smart brand take on corporate Goliaths

Take Tony’s upcoming 2021 calendar, for example. The company deliberately withheld the chocolate for one day as a way to prove the cocoa industry’s disunity.

That drew a lot of interest– and anger – but in the end, they achieved the goal of informing consumers of a serious problem, Tony’s boss in the UK and Ireland Ben Greensmith told. Chance.

“It has done a great job for us in terms of raising awareness of their brand and making people aware of it,” he said. “So we rely on stunts to get attention.”

Tony’s approach may be different for a new, ambitious chocolate maker—but the results speak for themselves. The company from the Netherlands is now a phenomenon in its home country and approx 20% of the market share, and in the UK, where it is now the fourth most popular chocolate bar in Britain after Galaxy, Lindt and Cadbury, according to Nielsen data. In less than five years, Tonys’ turnover in the UK has reached £40 million ($50.5 million) and is the fastest growing confectionery brand in the country. The company is also reaching out to chocolate lovers in the United States where it sells in Walmart stores.

chocolate on display
Tony Chocolonely chocolate bars made in store in London.

Courtesy of Tony’s Chocolonely

The Tonys’ rapid growth sometimes seems to outstrip what the brand stands for. But with a mix of smart CDs and bold campaigns, it keeps its mission at the top of consumers’ minds. For example, its chocolate is divided unevenly (unlike other bars that are divided into symmetrical squares or coconuts) to serve as a constant reminder of the inequality that comes with cocoa mining.

“We are few players. [We] they don’t have the power, the buying power of these big chocolate companies,” Greensmith said.

Price problems

Tony has distanced himself from tongue-in-cheek advertising, but continues to face the same pains as the rest of the chocolate industry.

The cocoa industry has been affected by inadequate harvests and rising prices want at the same time. This has sent chocolate prices skyrocketing as manufacturers pass on the high cost of raw materials to consumers-and Tony’s wasn’t left out. The chocolate raised prices by 7% across Europe (but not in the UK yet – it’s not clear why), but Greensmith admits it has been difficult to keep farmers moving.

“The way cocoa is sold … all the money is being made by the companies in the middle, and the farmers are not seeing any profit,” boss Tony UK said. “Like any business, we have to make a profit and do the right thing.”

Another problem, different from Tony’s, has been his bold marketing. As part of the “Sweet Solution“The campaign that was first launched in 2021, the company introduced chocolate stickers similar to those of other major chocolate companies to raise awareness about child labor in the cocoa industry. This move caused attention from companies that imitated it, which led to the removal of the bars. UK stores.

But last month again, Tony found himself alone Mondelez Mountains in Germany and Austria based on their placement in one of their advertising campaigns. The Dutch company is complaining about the decision, but says it represents the reason why it is trying to attract attention.

“We have to show that we can do all this and make a profit because we have to show the big chocolate companies that you can have a business idea, make money, do good, and grow money. A good chocolate company,” Greensmith explained.

In its own way, albeit stumbling, Tony’s work has helped increase awareness in the UK of the harmful practices of the cocoa industry from 10% to 40% in five years, market research firm IPSOS found.

Tony’s spends about 7% of its revenue on costs related to the effects, including paying higher cocoa prices that help farmers finance their farms. This is why, Greensmith insists, Tony is not like ordinary chocolate.

“We are not a chocolate company, we say we are a company that makes chocolate. So the results come first,” he said. “That’s why we exist.”

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