The two most international and best-known makers of premium pralines
both hail from Brussels and since earlier in the week I visited
Godiva, it's now Neuhaus-Mondose's turn. It's near the edge of
Vlezenbeek, a small village close to the ring road freeway that
circles the outskirts of Brussels, that I find the two-story
headquarters/factory of Neuhaus. Various kinds of small buildings
are nearby and directly across the street stands a large hospital
complex. A colorful sign containing the Neuhaus name along with
pictures of several pieces of delicious-looking pralines lets
visitors know they're at the right place.
Before entering the building I do my usual ride around the building
to get an idea of the size. Tucked away on the right side of
the building is a company store open to the public so I pop in
for a look. Neuhaus, with 67 million Euros in revenues, has over
2,000 sales outlets in over 50 countries. During my years of
travels I've passed many of their stores but, have never tried
the products. Hmm, there's an extensive selection of chocolate
to choose from but, I decide against purchasing anything because
chocolate companies usually like to load me down with their goodies.
It's a small reception area and I take a seat while the receptionist
finds out who ended up with my letter of introduction mailed
a month earlier to CEO Jos Linkens. Near the reception counter
sits a bowl containing individually wrapped thin chocolate bars
but I don't know if it's for showing off a new product or if
they're for visitors to sample.
Geert "Gary" Matterne, International Sales Manager,
bounds into the lobby and though he has no beforehand information
about what I do, generously agrees to answer my questions.
Built in 1989, about 300 people work in the headquarters/factory.
Parking is plentiful though there's no designated spots for cyclists,
smoking isn't allowed in the building, onsite recreational facilities
are nil and everyone is on their own for lunch as there isn't
a cafeteria--only break rooms. There's no formal dress code,
it's 25 minutes to downtown Brussels, 25 minutes to Brussels
airport and five minutes to the nearest freeway. Any employee
perks? 40% off at the company store.
I can't see the second floor, middle office of CEO Linkens but
Matterne says Linkens has a collection of tea pots. The company
was founded in 1857 and yes, there was a Mr. Neuhaus.
So, how do Neuhaus pralines stack up against Godiva pralines?
Can't tell you as Matterne lets me leave empty-handed.
Company website: www.neuhaus.be