Tony’s Chocoloney – sustainability, review

Tony’s Chocoloney has been on a mission to change the chocolate industry – specifically to eliminate slavery and child labor in West Africa. Right now, you can buy a lovely Rainbow tasting pack of Tony’s Chocoloney bars at the Grocery Outlet for just $5 (normally around $13). The variety pack is a good way to try out six of them together and find your favorite. 

Tony’s Chocoloney – Rainbow tasting pack

Tony’s Chocoloney rainbow tasting pack contains six bars (each bar is 1.8 oz.) with the following varieties:

  • Milk Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate Hazelnut
  • Milk Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt
  • Milk Chocolate Nougat
  • Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt
  • Dark Chocolate 70%

I really like this variety pack – each bar is a good size for two servings (or one, if you’re hungry) and all flavors are worth trying. It’s also pretty & would serve as a nice little gift for someone. The bars are wrapped in paper and housed in a cardboard box so the packaging is plastic-free, as are all Tony’s products. The two dark chocolate bars are vegan, while the milk chocolate bars are suitable for vegetarians.

I would probably choose the hazelnut or almond as my favorites, but all were good and it was fun to try new flavors (like nougat) that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

Tony’s Chocoloney – milk chocolate hazelnut

You can also buy large bars (6.35 oz.) of Tony’s Chocoloney on discount at the Grocery Outlet – I bought a bar of the milk chocolate hazelnut for $2, compared to a normal price of around $6. This is probably my favorite Tony’s Chocoloney bar based on taste alone – it has a really rich creamy texture that’s a bit like gianduja.

It’s a bit sweet, however, clocking in at almost 50% sugar content and I’d also like to eliminate dairy from my diet as much as possible. So overall this is not a common purchase for me – but it is delicious!

The dark chocolate bars are better choices from both health (less sugar) ethical (vegan) perspectives. So, the variety “rainbow” pack is a good way to figure out whether you can make the switch to dark chocolate, and you may feel a bit better without the extreme sugar rush : )

Tony’s Chocoloney, Milk Chocolate Hazelnut – Ingredients

Sugar, dry whole milk, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, hazelnuts, soy lecithin

Cacao and sugar are both Fairtrade certified – fully traceable for cacao and using a mass balance system for sugar. Hazelnuts are sourced from Spain and Italy.

Eliminating milk is one of the key actions that Tony’s could undertake to further improve the company’s impact. Tony’s does acknowledge this in its 2021 annual report, implying that using non-dairy milk may be on the cards. See my post on Endangered Species vegan milk chocolate for example of vegan milk chocolate that has a great texture and taste.

A bar of Tony’s Chocoloney, milk chocolate hazelnut, is pictured alongside the Nutrition Facts panel, ingredient lits, and fairtrade statement (fairtrade cocoa and sugar). Tony’s Chocoloney – ethical review

Slavery-free chocolate & Tony’s Chocoloney

Please check out the GSP post on slavery in the chocolate industry for a quick introduction to the topic and a quick summary of what separates good chocolate from bad chocolate, ethically-speaking.

A decision by the Slave Free Chocolate blog to remove Tony’s Chocoloney from its list of ethical chocolate companies has sparked a useful conversation on the topic. Here’s a comment on it from Tony’s 2021 annual report:

In late 2020 Tony’s was removed from the list of ethical chocolate companies published on slavefreechocolate.org’s blog. Not because cases of modern slavery suddenly appeared in our value chain – we’ve never found 1 in our own value chain. But because our liquid chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut, has been accused of slacking on sustainability and human rights abuses in their supply chain The fully traceable cocoa we use to produce chocolate is kept separate from Barry Callebaut’s other beans every step of the way. And working with Barry Callebaut is key to changing the industry from within.

Here’s a useful summary of the situation from Reuters:

Rather than condemning Tony’s Chocolonely, we should welcome its decision to try and make change from the inside out. The company deliberately chose to source cocoa directly from the Ivory Coast and Ghana to improve supply chains there and shine a light on where action against forced labour is needed. It could have gone for other less problematic sourcing routes, but made the decision not to ignore the risks in West Africa. As Tony’s Chocolonely says, “we go to where the problems are – so we can solve them”. It stands by its relationship with Barry Callebaut and says it is “triggering them to change.  – Reuters Events.

I mostly agree with this viewpoint. It’s almost certainly easier to secure an ethical supply of cacao somewhere like Ecuador or Panama, but it’s much more challenging in West Africa which supplies 70% of the world’s chocolate. Tony’s mission is to improve conditions in the Ivory Coast and Ghana by setting a precedent for others to follow.

Some critics believe we shouldn’t work with Barry Callebaut, one of the biggest cocoa processors in the world. But again, this decision is deliberate. Our mission is to make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate, not just our chocolate but all chocolate worldwide.

Here’s a video outlining the origins of Tony’s Chocoloney. Also, the Tony’s Fair, 2021 video is worth a watch.

Tony’s Chocoloney & cacao pricing

Paul Schoenmakers described the decision of Tony’s Chocolonely to take an additional step beyond sourcing Fairtrade to accelerate farmers’ progress out of poverty.

We decided then to start paying more and figure out how much more was enough to enable farmers to earn a living income.” He continued, “We worked on that model for a couple of years. With help from Fairtrade and the living income community of practice, I’m very proud that two years ago we were able to jointly publish what is now called a Living Income Reference Price for cocoa. – Fairtrade International.

Tony’s Chocoloney – ethical review. A pie chart shows the price breakdown for a bar of Tony’s Chocoloney chocolate. The fairtrade premium represents 1.6% of this total, Tony's additional premium is 1.4%, and the Chocoloney Foundation contribution is 0.7%.
Breakdown of the price of a chocolate bar from Tony’s Chocoloney

The price of fair cocoa only makes up a tiny fraction of a bar’s total price, so a bar wouldn’t have to be much more expensive to have fair cocoa in it.

Ethical rating for Tony’s Chocoloney

Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of Tony’s Chocoloney, which I’m rating 4 out of 5 Green Stars

  • Tony’s Chocoloney has raised awareness on slavery and child labor in the chocolate industry, particularly in West Africa, and is trying to change the system from within.
  • Tony’s is a certified B-Corporation, with a decent score of 101.
  • Cocoa and sugar are fair trade certified (using a mass balance system for sugar)
  • Tony’s is a carbon-neutral company – all CO2 is offset through JustDiggit.
  • Tony’s joined GoodShipping program and all shipping (by sea) is fueled by biofuel.
  • Wrappers are made from a mixture of recycled and FSC-certified paper. All packaging is plastic-free and Tony’s aims to go plastic free for entire supply chain soon.
  • Tony’s was voted as the #1 sustainable brand by Dutch folk
  • Room for improvement: Tony’s 2021 report doesn’t discuss pesticide use (pesticides used on cacao can be particularly nasty). Another key sustainability issue, maintaining forest ecosystems by growing cacao under the shade of others trees (e.g., agroforestry crops like avocado or mango) is only beginning to be addressed.
  • Milk is an ingredient in most of Tony’s bars, other than the dark chocolate varieties – it accounts for a large part of the bar’s carbon footprint and impact on animals, of course. This would be a good time for Tony’s to switch to plant-based milks – it’s totally doable, as demonstrated by Endangered Species vegan milk chocolate.

In my review of Alter Eco truffles, I figured that there’s room for improvement but Alter Eco deserved a lot of credit by introducing compostable wrapping for their truffles. The situation is similar here – some definite room for improvement but Tony’s deserves credit for helping to address slavery and child labor in West Africa.

Tony’s Chocoloney – ethical review. The image shows a large bar of Tony’s Chocoloney, milk chocolate hazelnut, and a variety pack of six bars. Underneath is a graphic showing a score of 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Tony’s Chocoloney chocolate:

  • 4 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4 green stars for social and environmental impact (4.5 green stars for the vegan dark chocolate varieties).

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Published by jkaybay

I have two sites, both focused on ethical consumerism. The Green Stars Project (https://greenstarsproject.org/) aims to start a movement based on crowd-sourced ethical ratings. Ethical Bargains (https://ethicalbargains.org/) is focused on new products that I've bought at the Grocery Outlet.

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