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What's in a Name: Tony's Chocolonely Origins

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon in which a large number of people think an event happened in one way when actually something else occurred. It originated from the event of others misremembering activist and politician Nelson Mandela’s death, where they thought he passed in the 80s when he actually did in 2013. Other popular Mandela Effects include misremembering Darth Varder’s famous “Luke, I am your father” line, the Berenstain vs Berenstein Bears, and what color design Pikachu’s tail is in Pokemon. I would like to add another Mandela Effect to the list: Tony’s Chocolonely. This is a well-known chocolate brand found in many common grocery stores. All my friends and I have always thought it was Tony’s Chocoloney, without the ‘L’ at the end. It wasn’t until I had a look at Tony’s Chocolonely advent calendar that I noticed the extra letter, which changed our understanding of the chocolate brand forever. We were all baffled; it made so much more sense for it to be Tony’s Chocolonely since it was catchy and easy to remember. It was thanks to my flatmate who attended a Tony’s Chocolonely presentation at work, where she learned the truth about the origin of the name.

The conception of the Tony’s Chocolonely name came from a noble cause. ‘Tony’ came from founder Teun van de Keuken’s name in its English form. ‘Chocolonely’ comes from how lonely his fight for slave-free chocolate was because many people did not listen to him about creating change in the industry. The company came about when Tony was investigating slavery in the cocoa industry for his journalism job. Many of the cocoa beans these large chocolate companies sourced from were collected through forced child labor. When Tony went to confront them, they didn’t listen and continued on with their forced child labor. To combat their silence, Tony began running campaign stunts to raise awareness of the issue. One thing Big Cocoa cannot ignore is extreme pressure from outsiders to change something within its supply chain. Tony’s campaign included writing up a petition and having prosecuted himself for slavery in court for eating chocolate from one of these companies. While Tony was waiting for the court’s decision and for change within Big Cocoa’s supply chains, he decided to take matters into his own hands by creating his own Fair Trade Chocolate franchise. The term fairtrade is common among sustainable companies. It is a partnership in which all sides receive equity in international trade. This means all workers are getting paid fairly and are safe in their working conditions. Tony’s Chocolonely takes it up a notch by further differentiating the brand to be slave-free, with respect to the child workers in West Africa that the cocoa beans are sourced from.

The slave-free and fairtrade labels are important in regard to sustainability even if they aren’t directly environmental. There is a focus on slave labor as opposed to the cocoa beans themselves. This is because the social impact of the act is just as important as the environmental impact within the term of sustainability. ESG (environment, social, governance), which is the predecessor of what is commonly known as sustainability, had a social impact as one of its three pillars. While people are one of the main causes of current planetary issues, many human populations are also victims. Sustainability helps stop the exploitation of resources. Corporations are exploiting marginalized workers for their gains so are in need of protection under the concept of sustainability. Many focus so much on the environmental aspect because of buzzwords like climate change and the Paris Agreement that they sometimes forget that human rights and ethics are also a part of it.

There’s currently a list of companies that make slave-free chocolate so consumers can shop more consciously. What’s interesting about this list is that Tony’s Chocolonely seems to be removed recently. This is due to their partnership with Barry Callebaut which is a company that relies on child slave labor for its cocoa beans. While the push for ethical chocolate is on the rise, Big Cocoa unfortunately still uses child slave labor to this day.

The Mandela Effect is explained by a variety of causes, from filling in gaps in the memory to parallel timelines. In the case of Tony’s Chocolonely, the assumption to rhyme is what often causes the phenomenon in others. The intention of highlighting the lonely battle of the founder in the name does help bring awareness to the cause. If only the company can somehow produce its products without the help of Big Cocoa can then go back on the right track of sustainability through a social impact. Until then, my friends and I will look at the name and remember where the company came from in grocery stores.


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