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.
Company website: www.guylian.be