That’s not a fair trade! ‘Woke’ chocolate firm leaves a day EMPTY in its Advent calendar to ‘highlight slave labour’ – as furious parents say stunt left children in tears
- Tony’s Chocolonely decided to leave its advent calendar empty on December 8
- The chocolate firm said it made the move to highlight slave labour policies
- However, it has now apologised after parents of autistic children slammed move
When excited families opened a window on their chocolate advent calendar only to find the disappointment of an empty space, some children were reduced to tears.
Parents also said the situation led to family squabbles.
Some suspected the missing treat, in the December 8 window, was the result of a manufacturing fault.
But, on closer inspection, they found the empty window on the Tony’s Chocolonely calendar – for December 8 – was the result of a deliberate, ‘woke’ decision.
The ‘fairtrade’ Dutch chocolate company said it made the decision to highlight inequality and slave labour policies of unscrupulous firms in the chocolate manufacturing process.
A small message of explanation was printed next to the empty December 8 window.
But unhappy parents said they did not need to be ‘taught a lesson by my advent calendar’ – adding that it upset children with autism and ADHD who did not understand the reason.
The £13 ‘Countdown Calendar’ from Tony’s Chocolonely landed on supermarket shelves last month
Hundreds of comments were posted on Tony’s social media pages.
The company says it made up for the empty window with extra bonus chocolates on December 9 and 24, which each had two treats rather than the usual one.
But one mother, Rebecca Winward, said: ‘My eight-year-old daughter was in floods of tears at the disappointment. She has ADHD and is awaiting a possible autism diagnosis, so what seems like small upsets to others are a big deal to her.’
Another mother said: ‘So glad I didn’t buy for my autistic son. I get the reason why, but think it wrong not to pre-warn.’
Meanwhile, Laura Tylor wrote: ‘Calendars are for children and tears before school is not ideal. If you want to make a statement, advise (the calendar is) for adults/older children only.’
And Lisbeth King said: ‘(I) don’t feel I need to be taught a lesson by my advent calendar.
‘You’re rather preaching to the converted here.’
Tony’s, whose £12.99 product has been sold via outlets including Waitrose and Ocado, later admitted its idea for an ‘unequally divided calendar’ was ‘inappropriate and caused confusion and disappointment’.
The company said: ‘Unfortunately, we failed to consider the difficulties empty windows can cause for neurodivergent children and adults. We have more to learn in considering how we can make our products as inclusive as possible.
‘At Tony’s we use our products to tell the story of an industry unequally divided and choc-full of inequality.’
Known to fans simply as Tony’s, the Fairtrade brand was founded in the Netherlands in 2005 by three Dutch TV journalists
After posting its explanation, Tony’s won some praise from parents who said it had sparked a conversation to educate their children.
Hilary Pyburn said: ‘I’m enjoying the advent calendar and its message. Keep challenging inequality.’
Tony’s says its research has found that at least 30,000 adults and children are forced to work in the industry for no pay, and in Ghana and the Ivory Coast – where more than 60% of the world’s cocoa is produced – at least 1.56million children work under illegal conditions because of their families’ desperate poverty.
It claims cocoa farmers are trapped in poverty because giant chocolate companies pay them so poorly, earning as little as 70 pence a day in the Ivory Coast – ‘too little to support a family’.
Last month, Tony’s was criticised for removing any mention of Advent from the ‘Countdown Calendar’ – 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.’
The Fairtrade brand was founded in the Netherlands in 2005 by three Dutch TV journalists after they discovered some major chocolate manufacturers bought cocoa from plantations accused of practising modern slavery and using illegal child labour.
Tony’s spokeswoman Nicola Matthews said: ‘There was a message next to 8 on the left-hand side explaining that our calendar was unequally divided.
‘Our intention was to increase issue awareness because only when people are aware that there is a bitter side to the chocolate industry can they choose more consciously and demand change from the big chocolate companies.’
Although Tony’s campaigns for 100 per cent ethical chocolate, it was dropped from a list of approved companies earlier this year by Slave Free Chocolate, a group aiming 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.’