Ethical supply chain management in action

Date : 29 July 2019

You may have recently seen a large red display unit advertising Tony’s Chocolonely in Sainsbury’s stores; you may have also seen a red shelf tray on a gondola end advertising the brand as well. Why is Tony’s Chocolonely, a very recent UK launch, getting this kind of support from Sainsbury’s? As well as its success in continental Europe, it comes down to the brand’s mission to eradicate slavery from the chocolate supply chain.

Source: IGD research


Ethical brands and certifications have been around for many years. However, our current shopper research suggests packaging, ethically produced and origin as attributes that feed into the purchasing decision are a long way behind quality, price and convenience.  

Our recent whitepaper – Shoppers of the future – highlighted that “socially conscious” would be a key shopper trend, having a significant impact in the future of food and grocery. Indeed, our research suggests that despite not being top drivers, aspects linked to more socially conscious shopping are the fastest growing in terms of importance.

Source: IGD Shoppervista Category benchmark research Sep 18


Why the recent growth?

Awareness of ethical issues is being driven by NGO campaigns and media coverage. Through Social media and the internet, consumers have access to the latest information and can conduct their own research into social and ethical concerns.

Currently, ethical concerns are most important in fresh meat and fish categories. Chocolate is not one of the top categories. However, Chocolonely’s mission is for this to grow in importance among shoppers and that all chocolate will be “100% Slave-free”

Source: IGD Shoppervista Category benchmark research Sep 18


More and more retail businesses are seeing the importance of supporting shoppers concerns and are making ethical and social pledges; suppliers who share their concerns will benefit from the synergy. Sainsbury’s values include a commitment to “Sourcing with integrity” and although this current only extends to its private label, Tony’s Chocolonely’s ethical stance is sympathetic to this value.

For many businesses, ticking the ethical boxes may be seen as a short-term solution to drive growth. As it becomes increasingly important to consumers, it will be vital for businesses to be authentic and holistic in their approach. In the Tony’s Chocolonely example, the business extends its responsibilities to its own workforce treating them with “fairness and honesty.”

Clarity across the total supply chain will be increasingly important and every step will need to be ethical and sustainable. Looking along the chain at how the raw product is produced and transported, but also at how it is being sold. Many businesses are looking to blockchain technology to support. It can deliver track and trace capability across the entire lifecycle of food products through every point of contact in their supply chain.

While in the UK, topics like plastics are top concerns for shoppers, businesses must ensure they evaluate their portfolio in terms of all the potential future concerns, where issues might arise and put plans in place to remedy. Suppliers need to be engaged now to give time to adapt before it becomes a media story.

If you want to hear more of the Chocolonely journey, it will be sharing its story at IGDLive in November. You can book your tickets here at

If you want to understand more about what blockchain is and how it’s being used, read our Blockchain: improving transparency and traceability report.

Simon Attfield

Category Insight Manager

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