In January, Tony’s Chocoloney issued a “Dream Job Alert” for three temp gigs: a “Chocotruck Captain” and two “Co-Pilots” for an extended road trip from Austin’s South By Southwest festival to the Pacific Northwest, preaching the gospel of what the Amsterdam-based company calls “slave-free chocolate.”
Hired through Tony’s North American HQ in Portland, the chocolate lovers include experiential marketing vets Corey Cornwell and Stephanie Iller Drachman as well as Nicole Pittman, a co-owner of the Portland Short Bus (who’s more used to driving bachelorette parties on urban wine tours than a truck full of chocolate).
“Eighty-five percent of people think that Corey’s Tony,” co-pilot Drachman says of the truck’s official captain.
Blinged out in red, white, and blue by Northeast Portland fabricator Axiom Custom Products, the Chocotruck is a converted delivery box truck. It might not be the same instant joy creator as the wild-shaped Oscar Meyer Wienermobile or the Planters Nutmobile (the Chocotruck actually crossed paths with the Wienermobile in Texas and again near Santa Barbara), but a vivid truck offering free chocolate samples can’t really go wrong. Unlike those multi-seaters, the Chocotruck has room for just the driver and a possible passenger in a jump seat. The other two usually follow in a chase car. And they sleep in hotels, not on a bed of chocolate bars. But it’s still pretty cool.
“We’ve just been able to see parts of the country I’ve never seen before,” says Drachman. “It was breathtaking—and I was simultaneously thinking about 12 feet of clearance.”
Inside the truck, visitors find a block puzzle revealing Tony’s many varieties (including a brand-new raspberry–pop rock bar coming out this spring) as well as museum-type interactive displays that draw attention to the market forces at work in the cacao industry, and the company’s efforts to support farmers and prevent child labor. View-Master-style stereoscopes cycle through pictures of West African farmers.
“People often just haven’t thought of where it comes from,” Pittman says of chocolate in general. Humanitarian and sustainability questions plague the chocolate industry but are less well known than issues surrounding coffee, for examples, or diamonds.
“We do know it’s a heavy topic,” says Cornwell. “But it’s still chocolate at the end of the day.” His favorite stop might have been Arizona State University, where the Chocotruck was part of the school’s Change the World event. “Ten thousand of their students who are all trying to essentially make a difference, thinking outside the box, thinking impactfully about how they can make things better for the world they live in,” he says. “It was just fun to bring this to them.”
In the Bay Area, Drachman remembers some “deep questions” from people wrapping their heads around the systems of chocolate supply chains and production when the Chocotruck visited the Google campus.
And last week at the University of Portland, where Tony’s Chocoloney is for sale in the campus store and at the nearby Green Zebra? Hungry college kids getting some fuel before finals.
Look for the Chocotruck this week at various New Seasons and the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. Then it heads north to Seattle but will be back for the Rose Festival.