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Tony's Chocolonely vs Mondelez

Tony's Chocolonely vs Mondelez

Ethical chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely was threatened with legal action last week after it unveiled 4 new limited edition bars with designs inspired by other chocolate brands – Milka, Kit-Kat, Twix and Ferrero Rocher - as part of campaign to highlight the issue of child labour in cocoa supply chains. 

The bars went on sale in Germany and Austria and a statement from Tony’s said ‘Most big chocolate companies don’t pay a living income price for all their cocoa, resulting in exploitation on cocoa farms, with 1.56 million children involved in child labour in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.’

However, Mondelez, who own the Milka brand and have brought the action against Tony’s, made no mention of child labour in its claim against the mission-led brand.  Instead, it is the use of the distinctive purple colour on the wrapper that caused them to call their lawyers. 

A spokesperson for Mondelez said ‘We own a colour trademark in Germany and throughout Europe for the distinctive Milka lilac colour for food products’, before going on to say that the ‘current legal issue is limited only to trademark infringement matters and concerns’.  They have not challenged Tony’s mention of child labour.

Mondelez's objective in challenging Tony's may have been to protect their brand's identity, and they are well within their rights to do so, but they run the risk walking into a PR disaster.  The perception of a multinational company, with revenues of billions of dollars, being the bullyboys against a mission-led, ethical business can not be ignored and this is not the first time Mondelez have been on the wrong side of the argument. An investigation in 2022 by Channel 4's Dispatches programme discovered children as young as ten years old working on cocoa farms in Ghana that supplied a Mondelez brand. 

In response Tony’s, although they plan to appeal the injunction, have changed the controversial lilac packaging to a neutral grey ‘for as long as we need to’.  They also took the opportunity give renewed focus to their anti-slavery campaign, by adding ‘Let’s pay farmers, not lawyers’.

Tony’s Chocolonely will continue to be a mission-led and in June 2023 it appointed three ‘mission guardians’ to protect its ambition of making chocolate ‘100% slave-free’.

Buy Tony's Chocolonely products here

You can read more about Tony’s sourcing principles, and the mission lock, here

Tony’s Mission Lock - Tony's Chocolonely (tonyschocolonely.com)

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