Tony’s Chocolonely, the Dutch fair trade confectionery firm, has secured investment from two venture capital funds to support its business championing slave-free chocolate.
Amsterdam-based Tony’s Chocolonely was founded in 2005 by three Dutch journalists amid concerns cocoa was being sourced from plantations that used child labour and slavery. They set out to buy cocoa from farmers in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, paying a higher price and working to eradicate bad practice.
Since, the firm has won retail listings in markets including the Netherlands, the UK and the US.
Belgium-based private-equity firm Verlinvest and JamJar Investments, a fund set up by the founders of UK smoothie maker Innocent Drinks, are putting an undisclosed sum into Tony’s Chocolonely.
In a statement, the chocolate maker and its new investors said the funds would be used to expand the brand internationally and develop Tony’s Chocolonely Chocolate Circus, a chocolate factory and visitor’s centre that seeks to educate consumers about the “inequality” in some areas of global chocolate production.
Ben Black, a principal at Verlinvest, which has offices in Brussels, New York and Singapore, and Adam Balon, from London-based JamJar, will join the supervisory board of Tony’s Chocolonely.
Tony’s Chocolonely chief executive Henk Jan Beltman will retain 51% of the voting rights in the company. Maurice Dekkers – one of the three founding journalists in Tony’s Chocolonely – and Eveline Raymans – the firm’s former managing director – will keep their shareholdings too, although the size of which was not disclosed.
Beltman said: “With the investment of Verlinvest and JamJar, we can accelerate in achieving our goal of making all chocolate worldwide 100% slave-free. To accomplish this, it is important that we can continue to grow internationally so that more and more people – farmers, consumers, retailers, big chocolate companies and governments alike – can be involved in our mission.”
Verlinvest’s Black added: “We see huge potential to accelerate in bringing the brand to an international audience and driving change on a global scale.”
Previous food companies backed by Verlinvest include US snacks business Popchips and condiments brand Sir Kensington’s, which is now owned by Unilever.