April 14, 2024

If Tony’s Chocolonely founder Teun van de Keuken had his way, he would’ve ended up behind bars long before he created his popular chocolate company.

The Dutch journalist made an attempt to get himself arrested in 2005, showing up to a police station and declaring himself a criminal. The crime? Fueling slavery by knowingly purchasing a chocolate bar made with illegal child labor.

When his activist stunt failed, van de Keuken came up with a new plan: creating a chocolate bar of his very own that proved the candy could be made without any exploitation of children.

His chocolate company would pay West African cocoa farmers a living income to help combat the scourge of child labor, and its beans would be sourced from land that had been deforested.

Nearly 20 years later Tony’s Chocolonely is not only one of the most popular chocolate brands in van de Keuken’s native Netherlands, it is known around the world.

The brand, whose stated mission is to make “100% slave free the norm in chocolate,” can be found at manor US retailers like Whole Foods, Target and Walmart. Its revenue grew 23% last year to $162 million.

“We’ve demonstrated it’s possible to pay a living income to farmers to address the challenges of child labor,” CEO Douglas Lamont told CNBC Make It in a recent interview. “[We’ve shown] you can be a successful chocolate company doing it the right way, in an ethical way.”

For the full story of how Tony’s Chocolonely went from a stunt to a global brand, check out CNBC Make It’s video.

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