Ben & Jerry’s partners with Tony’s Chocolonely to end modern slavery in chocolate

Dive Brief:

  • Ben & Jerry’s is working with socially conscious confection maker Tony’s Chocolonely to end modern slavery and child labor in the chocolate industry, the companies said in a statement. The ice cream brand will follow Tony’s Open Chain of sourcing principles designed to improve working conditions for farmers. They include paying an additional premium to producers for their cocoa beans so they can earn a living income, and transitioning to fully traceable cocoa beans.
  • As part of the announcement, the companies are partnering on new products debuting in January in the U.S. Ben & Jerry’s will introduce Chocolatey Love A-Fair, an ice cream flavor based on Tony’s milk caramel sea salt bar. And the candy maker will debut bars inspired by Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream flavors. 
  • Cocoa production, the majority of which comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa, has long been dogged by environmental concerns and allegations that companies depend on child labor but have not done enough to eradicate it from their supply chains. 

Dive Insight:

Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s is no stranger to integrating social causes into its business practices, and the latest collaboration with Tony’s Chocolonely fits squarely into that mission.

While the ice cream maker behind Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey has been involved with improving working conditions for farmers, this agreement takes it a step further. Ben & Jerry’s currently gives farmers a Fairtrade Premium for their cocoa beans while also paying a living income reference price — what farmers need to receive to invest in sustainable farming practices. 

By adopting Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles, CPGs take responsibility for ensuring a fully traceable cocoa supply chain and paying a higher price to address poverty, the root cause of social injustice for cocoa farmers, according to a press release. In this case, Ben & Jerry’s will know which farmers produce the beans that go into their chocolatey ice cream, but also under which social and environmental circumstances they are grown.

“Not only will this partnership see large volumes of cocoa beans sourced via Tony’s Open Chain but collaborating with one of the world’s most-loved social justice companies truly puts our initiative on the map internationally and proves that our way of working is a solution for all players in the cocoa industry,” said Joke Aerts, open chain lead at Netherlands-based Tony’s Chocolonely. 

The spotlight on cocoa production comes amid increasing consumer demand for cocoa products and interest in how foods are produced. A Cargill survey earlier this year found 55% of global consumers are more likely to purchase a packaged food item that is labeled with a sustainability claim, up four points from the company’s last survey in 2019. 

There is perhaps no bigger opportunity to make a sustainability impact through food than chocolate.The cocoa and chocolate market is projected to surpass $67 billion by 2025, according to a 2020 report from Fortune Business Insights.

Unilever is not the only company pledging to do more to improve working conditions for cocoa farmers, while simultaneously boosting transparency and sustainability.

Earlier this year, Nestlé said it would triple its cocoa sustainability funding to $1.4 billion by 2030, using some of the money to provide financial incentives to cocoa-farming families in Africa who help prevent child labor and reduce their environmental footprint. Mars, Mondelēz, Hershey and chocolate ingredient giant Barry Callebaut also have made changes to respond to environmental and economic issues involved in cocoa production.