Publication:

The Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

Data:

Woke choc firm axes ‘Advent’ from calendar

China In The Dock

By Charlotte Griffiths and Michael Powell

A CHOCOLATE brand that prides itself on its woke credentials has omitted any reference to ‘Advent’ from its Christmas calendars. The £13 ‘Countdown Calendar’ from Tony’s Chocolonely landed on supermarket shelves last month, but makes no reference to the religious season on its plastic-free packaging – a deliberate move on its part to keep it ‘accessible to all who celebrate the festive season’. Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, expressed unease over the marketing, saying: ‘To remove Advent from Christmas is to miss the meaning of Christmas. What is this a countdown to? It’s a pale reflection of the hope and joy that is Advent, which anticipates the arrival of Jesus who is the reason for the season. ‘It’s amazing that we are still celebrating his birthday and his message of reconciliation between us and God 2,000 years later. Let’s not scrap Advent.’ Known to fans simply as Tony’s, the Fairtrade brand was founded in the Netherlands in 2005 by three Dutch TV journalists after they discovered that many chocolate manufacturers bought cocoa from plantations that have been accused of modern slavery and use illegal child labour. Launching a festive calendar for the first time, the company said in October: ‘Looking for a way to count down to Christmas that creates impact and gives you an excuse to chomp on our chocolate for 24 days straight? This is it.’ Although Tony’s campaigns for 100 per cent ethical chocolate, it was dropped from a list of approved companies this year by Slave Free Chocolate, a group that aims to end child slavery in the cocoa industry. It came amid claims Tony’s worked with the Swiss cocoa processor Barry Callebaut, which was named as a defendant alongside Mars, Nestle, Hershey and Mondelez, which owns Cadbury, in a US lawsuit filed on behalf of eight former child slaves who claim they were forced to work unpaid on Ivory Coast plantations. Responding to the allegations, Tony’s said: ‘We have never found modern slavery in our supply chain. But we do find instances of illegal child labour occurring on the cocoa farms where we source our beans. We have always been 100 per cent transparent about this. And fully clear that it is not acceptable.’ The company said its decision to work with Barry Callebaut was ‘deliberate’ because it wanted to ‘inspire others to act’ to stamp out child slave labour in the industry. Nicola Matthews, UK marketing chief for Tony’s, said: ‘Our mission is to end slavery in the cocoa industry so we do things differently. But our tone of voice is light-hearted, so Countdown Calendar suits us, as well as being accessible to all who celebrate the festive season.’

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