Tony’s Chocolonely faces legal action from Mondelēz over ad campaign

Tony’s Chocolonely is facing a reported legal challenge in Germany from major confectionery group Mondelēz International in a case surrounding the use of purple wrapping for its latest campaign, writes Neill Barston.

The Dutch-founded confectionery impact brand had launched its Fair Alternative initiative, known as Sweet Solutions to customers in the UK, that urged the wider industry to pay farmers more.

It had centred on the creation of four thought-provoking look-alike parody chocolate bars inspired by major manufacturers, including Mars, Ferrero, Nestle and Mondelēz, with the latter reportedly objecting to the depiction of a product similar to its own renowned range of Milka bars.

As Tony’s explained, it had aimed to enhance the visibility of exploitation within cocoa supply chains, in which the majority of the industry has failed to pay a living income price for all crops, as well as demonstrating how its own enhanced payment systems to support communities operate.

But in the wake of the new campaign, Mondelēz has filed an injunction against the business, which has prompted the Dutch company to alter its design, replacing it with a grey bar, though it has stated that it will appeal the injunction judgement.

Moreover, as Tony’s noted, the latest action follows a similar situation in 2021, within the UK, where major chocolate makers had reportedly requested that Tony’s retailers to remove the lookalike ‘Sweet Solutions’ bars because they didn’t want to be associated with the claims of illegal labour in the chocolate industry.

According to the Dutch firm, its campaign received a positive response in the press and with consumers on social networks both in the UK and across Germany. It described the latest action as ‘unfortunate’ that a conversation was not continued rather than legal action, and said that it wanted ‘farmers not lawyers to win’ from the situation.

As has previously been reported, the company, which has stated it is on a mission to deliver slave free chocolate, has conceded that child labour does in fact exist within its own supply chains – which it shares with Swiss-headquartered Barry Callebaut, yet it believes that the measures it is putting in place, and by working with the largest businesses in the sector, that it can best shape the urgent changes needed within the sector.

Moreover, as the business has noted, there are still more than 1.56 million minors exposed to child labour in Ghana and Ivory Coast cocoa production, which it hopes that its policies of paying above market prices, and delivering a high level of traceability from its cocoa sources is making a difference.

Tony’s Chocolonely commented: “We’ve had to change our bar – but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop raising awareness around the biggest problems in cocoa, which include lack of living income, child exploitation and deforestation. We will continue focusing on our tried-and-true solution: sourcing beans through Tony’s Open Chain, according to Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles. And that includes paying cocoa farmers a Living Income Reference Price.”

“We are appealing the current injunction but, in the meantime, we have no option to comply so look out for our new grey bars in the remainder of the campaign as we continue to raise awareness of the lack of living income wages in cocoa.”

Confectionery Production has approached Mondelez for comment on the story. The business released a statement in response to the case. It read: “We own a colour trademark in Germany, and throughout Europe for the distinctive Milka lilac colour for food products. As a matter of practice, to protect the values of our brands, which we have worked hard to build over hundreds of years, we express our concerns to third parties when they are using a protected brand element”.

“What we can confirm is that the current legal issue is limited to trademark infringement matters /concerns only. Furthermore, we do not comment substantially on ongoing legal proceedings”.



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