Chocolaterie Guylian

There's intrigue as I ride up to Chocolaterie Guylian's head office/factory on the outskirts of Sint-Niklaas. Why? A week earlier I received an e-mail from Kristin Van Den Broeck, Publicity & PR Coordinator, in which I was told "Unfortunately, we are not able to invite you for this purpose due to circumstances." Huh? What circumstances is she talking about? I e-mailed her back asking this question but hadn't received a reply.

The modern two-story building is located in an industrial park and it's easy to pick out as it's the only building around with a 20-foot tall chocolate seahorse perched atop the roof (click to see photo). I've never tried Guylian's products but I've seen them in stores in the USA because they're famous for their seashell and seahorse-shaped chocolates.

I check-in with the friendly receptionist and note the bowl filled with wrapped chocolate pieces for visitors to sample. Before long I'm meeting with Mieke Callebaut, Marketing & Sales Director Europe. So, what's the story with the e-mail sent to me? Well, July is when vacations are taken and most chocolate companies shut down operations. This is also the time repairs, additions and so forth are made to factories. Guylian was remodeling the offices above the factory and that was the "circumstances" the PR Coordinator failed to mention. The work has now been completed.

Guylian's revenues in 2004 totaled 60 million euros and its chocolates are sold in more than100 countries. The husband and wife team of Guy and Lilian Foubert (hence the name GuyLian) founded the company in 1960. Built in 1988, about 140 work here in the head office/factory though an additional 100 more are employed during the busy season.

There are no onsite recreational facilities though showers are available, employee parking is free, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace and there's no formal dress code. It's a 45-minute drive to Brussels airport, 15-minute drive to nearest freeway and 15-minutes to downtown Sint-Niklaas. Employees are on their own for lunch as there're break rooms but no company cafeteria. There's no formal company art collection but they do have a collection of 25 drawings of sea shells done in the 1800's. Any employee perks? 25% off on company goodies. I can't see Managing Director Carl Krefting's second floor middle office with a view of the parking because "he's not here".

Callebaut doesn't let me leave empty-handed as I'm loaded down with four jumbo-size boxes of seashell chocolates filled with a variety of fillings.

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