Former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz has become a minority shareholder in Dutch chocolate supplier Tony’s Chocolonely.

Schultz’s investment was made “recently”, the company said in a statement today (3 April).

The backing follows on from a €20m ($21.7m) fundraise last June, backed by existing investors including Verlinvest and JamJar Investment, who both raised their stakes in the group.

Tony’s Chocolonely declined to comment on the total funds it has raised to date.

Commenting on Schultz’s investment, Douglas Lamont, the CEO at Tony’s Chocolonely said: “We are proud to welcome Howard Schultz as an investor in the company and we are looking forward to drawing on his extensive experience of building a global consumer brand and company.

“Tony’s rapid revenue growth, rising popularity with US consumers and increased investor interest demonstrates that building a company that balances shareholder returns with its impact on people and planet is not only right thing to do but the smart thing to do for companies today.”

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The group intends to use the recent investment to boost its "US production capabilities" at its factory in Chicago, which went online in June last year, Just Food was told.

Tony's Chocolonely also plans to use the funds to support the brand's expansion in the US "and the growth of Tony’s Open Chain, our business-to-business bean-sourcing operation", it said.

The chocolate bar producer owns one other facility in Belgium, which it acquired in 2021.

When asked how the business intends to grow in the US in 2024, Tony's said it would be homing in on "local production" and its "inaugural year with Walmart".

Tony's Chocolonely bars are now being sold in over 4,000 Walmart stores in the US, enabling the brand to be sold in 20% more stores than in 2023, the group said.

The company will now reach 31,000 points of sale in the country, including retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Safeway, CVS and Target.

Commenting on US expansion, Lamont said: "We are incredibly proud of the strides we've made in the US market... Our expanded retail presence, coupled with strategic investments in production and our exciting new investment partnerships, are all part of our larger ambition to end exploitation in the cocoa industry."    

Tony's Chocolonely's annual revenue grew 23% year-on-year in 2023 to $162m.