Belgian chocolatiers face up to changing tastes

Belgium is rightly proud as producer of some of the world's finest chocolate but changing tastes and new markets in Asia and the Arab world are shaking up its somewhat predictable chocolate scene.

"Belgian traditional chocolates? Some people still do them really well, such as the major brands," said Laurent Gerbaud, one of the new generation of chocolatiers trying to keep up with a discerning clientele.

In his workshop in the centre of Brussels, a customer will find few traces of the Manon, the praline filled with coffee-flavoured cream and covered in white chocolate which has been the industry mainstay for decades.

Gerbaud instead offers small chocolates made with exotic and unusual flavourings -- figs from Izmir in Turkey, the bitter berries of the Barberry tree, Cape pears or Yuzu, a citrus fruit from Japan.

"My priority is clear, simple flavours, using the best ingredients possible. My chocolates use less sugar and fat in response to increasing demand," Gerbaud said.

Such chocolates with a bitter and sharp edge were first made in France in the 1990s as artisan chocolatiers came onto the scene.

In Belgium, the trend has been slower to get off the ground in an industry dominated by such illustrious names as Leonidas, Godiva, Cote d'Or or Neuhaus.

But that is beginning to change, with new brands coming through, even if progress is slow and Belgium's some 400 artisan chocolatiers remain wary of getting carried away.

"It is extremely difficult to establish a brand, to build up a clientele and to be profitable. After 11 years, I still do not have profits," says Gerbaud, one of the best in the business.

---- Traditional brands fight back ----

For the established brands, the challenge is different, needing to find new markets if they are to expand beyond their home base.

Leonidas was founded after the 1913 International Exhibition by Leonidas Kestekides, a Greek pastry maker who decided to settle in Belgium, and the company is using the 100th anniversary celebrations to update its offering.

Kestedides' descendants still run the business, with the Leonidas brand known worldwide through some 1,300 outlets in 50 countries, selling 6,000 tonnes a year or one million chocolates a day.

"It is clear that our potential for development lies more in the emerging economies rather than in the mature market here in Europe," said Hugues Moens, commercial director for Leonidas.

China, already home to 40 Leonidas shops, and the Arab world are now the priority for the company.

In Belgium as in France, with some 350 shops in each country, Leonidas has to find the right balance between tradition and innovation so as to keep its old customers and attract new ones.

"We do not forget that our success is based on the loyalty of customers who hold to traditional chocolates such as the Manon, our best-seller," said Claude Seneque, master chocolatier at the company.

To attract new customers, to cater for changing tastes, Leonidas must also have something for those who find the brand "a little old-fashioned", according to Pauline Vervoort, 26, from Brussels.

So as part of its anniversary celebrations, Leonidas has made new pralines, smaller and even more chocolate packed, and plans to spruce up its shops.

"In Belgium, to succeed in chocolate is harder and harder. You have to be tough but also creative all the time," Gerbaud says.

jri/siu/jr/bmm/ns

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post
    Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post

    After nearly a year, President Aquino finally made good his promise to a long-time ally – former Cavite governor and congressman Erineo Maliksi – to head the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), replacing Margarita Juico who resigned in May 2014. Maliksi must be officially elected by the PCSO board members as their chairman. Prior to his appointment to the PCSO, Maliksi faced graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged illegal purchase of P2.5 million worth …

  • US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense
    US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense

    A massive deployment of aircraft, personnel and warships characterizes this year’s Balikatan between the two allies, which war games were launched 30 years ago. Commander Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy public affairs chief, said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) will link  up with the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. …

  • P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China
    P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China

    With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia. Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the …

  • OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism
    OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday backed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), warning that failure to see the peace process through with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could open the door to extremism. OIC secretary-general Iyad Bin Amin Madani, who is in the country to rally support for the peace process and the BBL, told reporters at the Senate yesterday that the Philippines should not waste the opportunity to attain lasting peace in Mindanao, especially …

  • Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed
    Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed

    The head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is opposing the plan of the Senate to investigate alleged “justice for sale” in the judiciary. In an interview yesterday, IBP national president Vicente Joyas contested the pronouncement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate Blue Ribbon committee can probe the reported corruption in the judiciary, as it remains part of the scope of the Senate’s investigative power. “The plan of the Senate to push through with the …

  • PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view
    PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view

    The camp of Floyd Mayweather is reportedly charging the Philippine National Police P200,000 for a pay-per-view deal of his fight with Manny Pacquiao, a PNP official said yesterday. Director Danilo Constantino, the PNP’s Chief Directorial Staff, said the cost of the pay-per-view for the fight makes it difficult for the PNP to sponsor the free viewing for its personnel and their dependents at Camp Crame’s multi-purpose center. “We are currently negotiating for the pay-per-view and we ever …

  • No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP
    No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP

    There has been no disruption in the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) since former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima was suspended in December 2014, an official said yesterday. PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is the one signing the PTCFOR cards, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said. Cerbo, however, could not say when Espina started signing the cards and how many PTCFORs have …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options