Class of 2021: Tony's Chocolonely

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Andy Wardlaw, Chief Ideas Officer

28 Jan, 2021 | 2 minute read

Current global events are being heralded as a ‘before and after moment’ - even in the world of consumer-packaged goods. So, it’s time brands upped their ante, raising the bar across the total user experience. And some brands are doing it already. Welcome to the Class of 2021!

Shoppers have just provided supermarkets with their biggest ever Christmas. Our reliance on consumer-packaged goods has never been so strong, and with lockdowns continuing to endure, it’s fair to presume that many of us are now ready to discover new & exciting products as part of our weekly grocery haul.

Which is good news for challenger brands! But which ones have got what it takes to break into more mainstream baskets? It’s not enough to show up with a great product anymore. For younger consumer activists who crave experiences, something altogether more profound needs to be on offer.

So, here is the first of my ‘Class of 2021’: those every day brands and products that I believe will gain significant momentum in the year ahead - expanding their reach and edging their way into more and more shopping carts.

One of the more enduring impacts of this moment will be an elevation in the value we place on experiences over stuff. Brands that can generate a sense of added experience are well placed for the future that is about to unravel.


If you haven’t seen or heard of Tony’s Chocolonely yet, I can guarantee that you will. The brand is starting to make waves with its bold, ethical stance – stamping out incidence of inequality in the cocoa supply chain.

But there is so much more going on!

The product is truly amazing. Trust me, as I have chomped my way through most of the range to compile this article.

And it's an experience that begins way before the chomping! The brand’s brash color palette positively grabs you as you hit upon the shelf. Tony's clearly didn't read the category design manual that requires all premium chocolate packaging to carry darkened hues, edged in gold and silver to substantiate the price.

By contrast, Tony’s is fun, almost slapstick - but with a serious message: buy me and help end inequality.

To hold the pack is to be transported into the world of Willy Wonka. It’s heavy paper wrap evokes an innocent time when cost engineering was not a thing. The sound that the textured substrate generates when lightly brushed signals the presence of an inner foil.

It’s a delightful and strangely addictive moment – and it serves to heighten the expectation of irresistible pleasure.

Tonys milk choc
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At home, opening up the heavy paper wrap feels almost ritualistic, supported by sight and sound. Then behold, a very distinctive looking chocolate bar. It’s ‘uneven ‘crazy paving’ design reinforces the key brand message about the uneven distribution of wealth across the cocoa supply chain. ‘Distinctive’ product design suddenly becomes meaningfully so. It all hang’s together beautifully. Brand messages are ‘felt’ across the sensory journey.

With confectionery count lines taking a hit as on-the-go consumption remains suppressed, Tony’s highlights how every day brands can break through in a post pandemic world that places more value on experiences – even when the economics are hard. Its price is considerably higher than most of the established top tier, but in my considered opinion, this brand experience justifies the extra investment. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And then there's the residual glow of making a small difference to other people's lives.

In 2021, household budgets will be tightened. If people cannot easily articulate why they are paying extra for a challenger or leader, then it will inevitably come back to price. So, now is the time to think how you can deepen the expectation of premium from the very first moment of truth, across the consumption experience and beyond.

And as we’ve seen, sometimes it’s the smallest tweak that can have the most dramatic effect.

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