Kraft Foods Belgium S.A.

Kraft Foods, with more than $32 billion in revenues (2004) and 98,000 employees, is the world's second largest food processing company (Nestle is numero uno). Kraft Foods Belgium contributes 418 million Euros (2003) and 1,700 employees to those totals. Thanks to its Cote d'Or brand, Kraft Foods is also the absolute number one in Belgium chocolate with a market share of more than 30%.

Halle, with a population I guesstimate to be around 25,000, lies12 miles south of Brussels. Headquarters for Kraft Foods Belgium stands on the edge of town in a three-story building adjacent to two of its factories, one of which produces Cote d'Or chocolate. The complex is set back from the main road running past but, a large sign emblazoned with Kraft product names stands near the roadside so visitors know they've found the right place.

Entering the property one passes a large expansive grassy area. Something moving catches my eye, then something else moves, then another similar-looking object. Whoa, it seems rabbits have created a settlement here as I quicky count 12 of ‘em. Hmm, I've heard of guard dogs but could these be guard rabbits?

Visitors have to be buzzed into the building and then check in at the reception desk. I take a seat in the very small waiting area while the receptionist checks to see who ended up with my letter of introduction sent to General Manager Pierre Iweins. On the reception counter there's a basket filled with chocolate toffee samples. Nearby an elevator's exterior has been completely enveloped into an ad for Cote d'Or chocolate (it's well done). Also nearby are five glass displays filled with various products produced by Kraft. An employee walks in smoking a cigarette and after a few seconds of chit-chat with the receptionist he heads upstairs–which means smoking is permitted in the building.

I meet with Valerie Moens, Corporate Affairs Manager Benelux, who's very generous with her time even though she hadn't seen the advance material sent a month earlier. About 240 people work in the place with an additional 450 in the factory. Parking is free and plentiful, the cafeteria serves hot food, there's no executive dining rooms, meeting rooms are named after continents and smoking isn't allowed in the building (I don't mention seeing the smoking employee in the lobby). It's five minutes to the nearest freeway, 30 minutes to Brussels airport and there's uncovered parking for commuting cyclists. Any unusual employee perks? Every two months employees receive vouchers for Kraft goodies at the company store.

Can't see GM Iweins' office but Moens does give me a walk through the building. So, how do I rate Cote d'Or chocolate? I don't know as Moens lets me leave empty-handed.

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