Tony’s Chocolonely confirms Waitrose as first UK “Mission ally” retailer

Photographer - Jamie Orlando Smith Art Direction - Sharon Davis Food Stylist - Sian Davies Prop Stylist - Wei Tang Client - Waitrose Shoot Date - March 2024

Dutch ethically founded confectionery impact brand Tony’s Chocolonely has secured a major partnership with UK store Waitrose, which becomes the first British retailer to become one of its ‘Mission allies’ on industry sustainable cocoa sourcing, writes Neill Barston.

The company’s Open Chain initiative has attracted a number of brands to the cause, including Ben & Jerry’s and Albert Heijn, as well as fast growing industry businesses such as Huel and Pleese, as it seeks to highlight and positively address ongoing issues surrounding child labour within supply chains.

Tony’s Chocolonely, which will be returning as a keynote speaker at our World Confectionery Conference on 12 September, has continued to see development in the brand’s overall global presence, as we reported last week on its investment expansion in the US. In addition, within the UK, the business has also re-signed a deal for a special bar being made available at the Glastonbury Festival this summer in support of Oxfam.

In total, nine Waitrose own brand chocolate bars, including Cooks’ ingredients bars, will be sourced through Tony’s Open Chain. The full range will be available across all UK stores from Monday 8th April and recognisable by the yellow Tony’s Open Chain ‘button’ on the front of pack.

As Tony’s added, by joining Tony’s Open Chain, Waitrose commits to Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles, including rigorous sourcing standards, robust traceability, paying the living income reference price for cocoa and building long term partnerships with partner cooperatives to support farmers and develop thriving cocoa communities. As a collaborative initiative, Mission Allies compete on chocolate but collaborate on cocoa.

Cocoa sourced according to Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles is proven to be 100% verified deforestation free, reduce child labour from 46.7% (industry average) to 4.4% and to contribute 62% to cocoa household income in Ivory Coast. Currently 17,740 farmers benefit from living income cocoa prices thanks to Tony’s Open Chain, 20% more than last year

Commenting on its latest agreement, Sanne Van Zon-Arts, Head of Sales, Tony’s Open Chain said: “We are thrilled to welcome Waitrose as a new mission ally in Tony’s Open Chain. Being the first UK retailer to join us, Waitrose will pave the way for changing the norm in cocoa and offering consumers more opportunities to choose responsible chocolate for which farmers are paid the living income reference price. Together we will make significant impact and take serious steps to end exploitation in cocoa.”

Furthermore, as the business added, it has continued in its mission to drive  structural change towards a more equally divided cocoa chain, which as Confectionery Production has reported on numerous occasions, still has a notable problem with child labour.

The last industry reports showed that some 1.5 million children in Ghana and Ivory Coast remain exposed to the worst forms of child labour, with the figure showing little sign of reducing amid key ongoing cocoa shortages that have seen prices on Futures commodities markets surge to $10,000 a tonne. There remain other significant issues impacting the sector, including continued rates of deforestation linked to industry, as well as pressure from illegal ‘galamsey’ gold mining operations, and high levels of crop disease that has further weakened yields in the region.

As Tony’s noted, as part of the Open Chain initiative, companies take responsibility for a traceable supply chain, where issues are always brought out in the open so they can be solved; direct and equal business relations throughout the entire chain; and paying a higher price which makes a living income achievable for farmers. Waitrose has long believed in creating better livelihoods for workers and their families, stronger communities and sustainable supply chains for Waitrose and supplier partners. Since 2005, The Waitrose Foundation has invested over £19 million into more than 1,700 community projects in nine countries.

Furthermore, the company confirmed that cocoa in Waitrose own brand lines, that is not sourced via Tony’s Open Chain, is becoming Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certified, offering customers cocoa products that bring direct economic and environmental benefits to producers and their communities. A total of 72% of the cocoa Waitrose sourced for own-brand products in 2023 was either Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified.

Charlotte Di Cello, Commercial Director at Waitrose said: “We’re proud to be the first UK retailer to join Tony’s Chocolonely in their mission to end exploitation in cocoa, but we definitely hope we aren’t the last.

“Joining as a Mission Ally is crucial to helping set a new industry standard, in a world where sustainability is no longer optional but essential, we want to not just meet but exceed our customers’ expectations for responsibly and ethically sourced, high-quality food across the UK and international supply chains.”

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