Source: Waitrose

Some Waitrose own-label bars will now display a yellow ‘button’ on pack signifying they’re sourced via Tony’s Open Chain

Waitrose has become the latest UK supermarket to join Tony’s Open Chain, to improve the transparency, quality and conditions within the supply chain for some own-label chocolate bars.

The supply chain initiative was started by ‘ethical’ chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely – based on its own five-principle framework to sourcing cocoa.

By agreeing to become a ‘mission ally’, Waitrose has committed to the five principles, which include: better transparency; commitment to pay a higher premium for beans; investing in developing farming co-operatives; adopting longer-term sourcing agreements; and improving production without increasing levels of illegal labour practices.

As part of the initial commitment, Waitrose has partnered with Tony’s to source cocoa used to produce six Waitrose chocolate bars and three of its premium Cook’s ingredients bars.

The products began to hit shelves nationwide on 8 April and display a yellow ‘button’ on pack signifying they’re sourced via Tony’s Open Chain.

“We’re proud to be the first UK retailer to join Tony’s Chocolonely in their mission to end exploitation in cocoa, but we definitely hope we aren’t the last,” said Waitrose commercial director Charlotte Di Cello.

“Joining as a mission ally is crucial to helping set a new industry standard. In a world where sustainability is no longer optional but essential, we want to not just meet but exceed our customers’ expectations for responsibly and ethically sourced, high-quality food across the UK and international supply chains,” she added.

Waitrose – which prides itself on generally higher standards across its animal and ingredients supply chain – had previously, in 2019, committed to ensure all cocoa used in its own-brand products was certified as Fairtrade or by the Rainforest Alliance.

The retailer has not clarified if or when it intends to roll the open chain principles across the rest of its coca supply chain. Other mission allies include Aldi - which has partnered with Tony’s Open Chain since 2021 - Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, as well as Huel and Pleese. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Waitrose as a new mission ally in Tony’s Open Chain,” said Tony’s Open Chain head of sales Sanne Van Zon-Arts.

“Being the first UK retailer to join us, Waitrose will pave the way for changing the norm in cocoa and offering consumers more opportunities to choose responsible chocolate for which farmers are paid the living income reference price. Together we will make significant impact and take serious steps to end exploitation in cocoa.”

It comes as supermarkets come under increased scrutiny to be more transparent about where and how they source cocoa used in their own-label brands. Last month Tesco and M&S were publicly accused of “keeping their customers in the dark” by campaign group Mighty Earth, over a refusal to take part in the industry-wide Chocolate Scorecard survey. 

Both retailers defended their sourcing commitments, and are understood by The Grocer to be in the process of updating their internal disclosure practices in order to improve the amount of information provided to customers.