Should Belgian chocolate shake?  - Trends-Trends on PC

Should Belgian chocolate shake? – Companies

A national pride, Belgian chocolate represents a multi-billion euro industry that continues to grow. A “made in Belgium” success that the successive closures of the Ferrero and Barry Callebaut factories should not threaten too much. But there are other concerns…

Crunchy, filled, coated. In bars, pralines or spreads. Chocolate. The mere mention of the word is capable of making the millions of Belgians salivate who consume about nine kilos of it a year. Bringing back chocolate is a must on the checklist of tourists visiting the flat country. At Brussels-National, 1.5 kilos are sold every minute, “the equivalent of 800 tonnes per year”, specifies Nathalie Pierard, spokesperson for the airport. Chocolate is a national pride whose reputation is second to none.

Crunchy, filled, coated. In bars, pralines or spreads. Chocolate. The mere mention of the word is capable of making the millions of Belgians salivate who consume about nine kilos of it a year. Bringing back chocolate is a must on the checklist of tourists visiting the flat country. At Brussels-National, 1.5 kilos are sold every minute, “the equivalent of 800 tonnes per year”, specifies Nathalie Pierard, spokesperson for the airport. Chocolate is a national pride whose reputation is second to none. Yes, but now, in Belgium, chocolate tastes much more bitter than usual. The discovery of salmonella in two Belgian factories (Ferrero and Barry Callebaut) in just a few months came to play spoilsport. “This crisis was a real tsunami from which we have not emerged”, confided Loïc Lallier, Ferrero’s marketing director to Linéaires, the French monthly dealing with the retail sector. In April, the company had to recall its Kinder products and also had its production authorization withdrawn for its Arlon factory. Hundreds of tons of chocolate had been destroyed, part of the turnover going the same way. Even if the company declined to comment, the consequences are undoubtedly considerable. Especially since the crisis was triggered in the middle of Easter, very popular with chocolate consumers. With what influence on the reputation of products made in Belgium? “Ferrero is a brand in its own right known for specific products, so it had no immediate impact on the image of our chocolate,” said Mieke Callebaut, adviser at Choprabisco, the Royal Belgian Association of Chocolate Industries. , praline, biscuit and confectionery. The story could have ended there. But that was counting without the paralysis of the largest chocolate factory in the world, Barry Callebaut, in Wieze, West Flanders. In question? Salmonella again. Following the presence of this bacterium in a control sample, the company decided to discontinue production on its own at the end of June. “This bacterium likes to grow in products that have a high sugar and fat content and a low water activity, specifies Aline Van den Broeck, spokesperson for the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. It is therefore not very surprising to find it in chocolate.” The “problem” with Barry Callebaut is that the company has many customers who are among the most important companies in the sector in Belgium. Among them, Neuhaus, Leonidas, The Belgian Chocolate Group, Guylian or Mondelez (which produces Milka chocolate) but also Nestlé or Unilever (Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s and Carte d’or). Barry Callebaut delivers its product in bulk to a multitude of biscuit makers, chocolate bar manufacturers and chocolatiers, who prefer to contact giants like the Swiss group rather than produce it themselves. According to Korneel Warlop, spokesperson for Barry Callebaut, “73 Belgian or foreign customers are affected by this incident”. What are the consequences for the turnover of Barry Callebaut and its customers? It is still a bit early to tell. Especially since these have sometimes been affected differently. Some sponsors were not affected by the problematic delivery, this is the case of Leonidas. Others have admittedly received contaminated tanks, but these have not entered their factory. While still others, like Neuhaus, had to completely shut down their activities in order to clean up the production lines. “As long as we do not know how long the Barry Callebaut plant will be closed, estimating the consequences for customers remains very complicated,” adds one at Choprabisco. And then, “the company proactively detected and communicated the incident without minimizing it, this shows how serious we are in Belgium”, underlines Philippe de Selliers, CEO of Leonidas and president of Choprabisco. “There is no compromise on the food safety and quality of Belgian chocolate.” (read the box next page) Good news already: the fact that Barry Callebaut’s market is essentially B to B has prevented the end consumer from being affected. The general public tends to forget it, but the chocolate industry is not limited to chocolate bars and pralines. It covers all cocoa-based products, from confectionery to biscuits, but also what is called couverture chocolate. Used by professionals, it melts and tempers more easily, making it possible to make chocolates with a clean, smooth and shiny surface, which mold quickly and unmold easily. In Belgium, this couverture chocolate, used by many players in the sector, comes mainly from three companies: Barry Callebaut (Swiss group), Cargill (American group) and Belcolade, a subsidiary of Belgian Puratos. At the present time, the consumer does not seem to be troubled by these events since chocolate sales have not fallen at distributors. “This product category is now suffering more from inflation than, for example, from a food crisis”, shares Colruyt Group. Increases in the price of raw materials combined with those of energy have indeed inflated chocolate prices. “We must add the automatic indexation of wages to which the chocolate industry is no exception, continues Mieke Callebaut. This can weigh very heavily for some.” Despite these increases, the chocolate industry is doing well. It must be said that the health crisis has had less of an impact than others. “Chocolate has been a product in great demand by consumers who need small pleasures”, assures Philippe de Selliers. In 2021, the global chocolate market was worth $106.6 billion. The industry is further expected to grow by 5.5% over the forecast period 2022-2027, to reach $147 billion by 2027. In Belgium, 664 companies are active in the manufacture of products based on cocoa, according to Statbel data, and chocolate factories are big employers for their regions. Ferrero thus employs 725 to 1,100 people (during the peak season) in its factory in Arlon. Barry Callebaut employs 2,000 people in Belgium, including 600 in the Wieze plant alone. For a number of relatively stable jobs. In 2015, there were 8,342 working in chocolate in our country. Today there are 9,302, which represents 11% of the total in the food industry sector. But without the prospect of significant job growth over the long term. “Like the food industry, chocolate is a sector that is increasingly digitized and robotized,” we explain at Choprabisco. For what international success? On the podium of exports of cocoa products, Belgium takes third place. “You might think that this is the main material that we export, but not at all”, we explain to the Walloon Export Agency (Awex) – Belgium is first and foremost an exporter of chemical products and pharmaceuticals. And the Netherlands exports more semi-finished products, such as cocoa paste, from the port of Rotterdam thanks to its factories specializing in the grinding of beans. “We import this cocoa paste but we export a large part in the form of processed products”, recalls Guy Gallet, secretary general of Choprabisco. Pralines, for example, represent 25% of our exports. They are mainly intended for our European neighbors but also for the United States and Japan. Positive outlook for the Belgian chocolate industry: the share of exports outside the European Union continues to grow. “In Asia and North America, the demand for chocolate is increasing rapidly, there are opportunities for the Belgian market”, specifies Guy Gallet. Proof that made in Belgium remains a guarantee of superior quality. And it is not the local consumer, with his nine kilos swallowed per year, who will say the opposite…

.

Comments

0 comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.