Tony’s Chocolonely has been “forced” to change the colour of its packaging in Germany after legal action from Mondelez International.

The dispute centred on what Mondelez calls its “distinctive Milka lilac colour”, which is associated with the US giant’s Milka chocolate brand.

Netherlands-based Tony’s Chocolonely centres its business model on paying a “fair” price to cocoa farmers. As part of a marketing campaign to highlight the prices farmers receive, the company had launched four “recognisably parodic chocolate bars” in Germany, which it said were “inspired by the design and taste of major chocolate manufacturers”.

In a statement sent to Just Food, Tony’s Chocolonely, without naming Mondelez directly, said: “A competitor has now obtained an injunction in court. Whilst Tony’s is appealing this injunction it is required to comply in the meantime by removing all Swiss purple bars and images from the market.”

It added: “Whilst Tony’s is appealing this injunction it is required to comply in the meantime by removing all Swiss purple bars and images from the market,” said the company.

“We’ve had to change our bar but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop raising awareness around the biggest problems in cocoa, which include lack of living income, child exploitation and deforestation.”

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In a short statement, a Mondelez spokesperson told Just Food: “We own a colour trademark throughout Europe for the distinctive Milka lilac colour for food products”.

“As a matter of practice, to protect the values of our brands, which we have worked hard to build over hundreds of years, we express our concerns to third parties when they are using a protected brand element.”

Tony’s Chocolonely said the episode echoed a “similar situation” in the UK three years ago. The company ran the campaign in the UK in 2021 and, it claims, unnamed chocolate makers put pressure on retailers to remove lookalike bars “because they didn’t want to be associated with the claims of illegal labour in the chocolate industry”.

Tony’s Chocolonely has a “living income model” where the company has calculated that a farmer in Ghana should receive $2.10/kg of cocoa and a farmer in the Ivory Coast should get $2.20/kg of cocoa.

Last year December, Mondelez was among the chocolate companies described as “inadequate” by NGO Ethical Consumer for their sourcing of cocoa.

Mars and Lindt & Sprüngli were also part of a group of companies given the same designation in a report by Ethical Consumer, which looked into issues such as the price paid to cocoa farmers and suggestions of child labour on plantations.

UK-based Ethical Consumer listed 11 chocolate manufacturers in the “inadequate” category, which it suggested are the “ones to avoid”.

Fifteen, meanwhile, were labelled as “adequate”, including Tony’s Chocolonely, Moo Free and ’57 Chocolate.

“Child labour, poorly paid farmers, and unjust global distribution of profits are key ingredients in the global chocolate industry,” Ethical Consumer said.

Last June, Belgian investor Verlinvest had upped its stake in Tony’s Chocolonely.

The private-equity firm, the investment vehicle of the de Spoelberch family, increased its holding in Tony’s Chocolonely as part of a €20m ($21.8m at the time) funding round from existing shareholders.

The amount Verlinvest – which was already Tony’s Chocolonely’s largest shareholder – invested is unknown but its total shareholding has now increased from 43.1% to 55.9%. Its percentage of voting shares has increased from 50.1% to 64.2%.