Introduction to 2005 Belgium Chocolate and Cookies Stories

The chocolate and cookie business in Belgium is a multi-billion dollar industry. Quite a few of the companies visited have names you've never heard of but don't let that fool you into thinking they're small-time operators. Go into retailers like Marks and Spencer and Wal-Mart and grocers (including the big boys like Costco, Carrefour, Kroger, Tesco) and you'll find chocolate and cookies sporting the retailer/grocer's name or store brand (private label). Do you actually think these companies have factories making their own cookies or chocolate? Heck no, they contract it out or put it up for bids. Belgium is a big player in this field.

Where did I find the names of companies to visit? Most were garnered off the membership rolls of CHOPRABISCO, the Royal Belgian Association of the Biscuit, Chocolate, Pralines and Confectionary Industry.

Last year after visiting cookie/chocolate companies in Switzerland I was constantly being asked whether I received free samples. Truth be told the majority of the Swiss companies were very generous and more than once I had to decline gifts of goodies as I had absolutely no room on my bike. So, in the Belgium stories you'll see I mention whether or not a company had samples in the reception area for visitors. Also noted was whether I was given goodies upon leaving. How did Belgium cookie/chocolate concerns fare in sending me on my way with samples of their products? Very, very poorly when compared to Switzerland.

Visits to chocolate/cookie companies took place in July & August of 2004 in Switzerland. Visits to chocolate/cookie companies in Belgium took place in July & August of 2005. Unlike in Switzerland, I experienced quite a few crummy receptions at Belgium cookie/chocolate companies. Worse yet, a handful let me cycle to their head office/factories only to find the place closed for vacation. How hard would it have been to send an e-mail informing me of the dates they'd be closed? I realize I'm an unimportant guy on a bicycle but, that's still a no-class thing to do.