Trefin Confiserie s.a.

I'd guesstimate Lokeren, which lies about 25 miles west of Antwerp, to have a population of around 15,000. It's in an industrial park on the outskirts of town where I find the head office/factory of candy and chocolate maker Trefin. Trains pass by the building's rear. A sign near the road lets visitors know this is the place. From the outside the one-story building looks like it was built in the 1960's and the dated furnishings in the reception area confirms it.

Near the reception counter there's a bowl full of blue mint candy for visitors and in one corner of the room stands an antique industrial-size copper kettle. Hanging on a wall is a framed picture of a man, though there's no name or dates, I assume he founded the company. It's mid-July and deserted here as I have to stick my head through a doorway and shout "hello" to get someone to come out from the back. I meet with Goeleke Eckhout from the sales department.

It's a seasonal business as the number of people working here fluctuates from 70 to 120. The factory is currently closed for summer vacation. The company was founded in 1930 and I ask who the gentlemen is in the framed picture but, Eckhout doesn't know. Employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace and there's a break room but no company cafeteria. It's 10 minutes to the nearest freeway, a five-minute drive to Lokeren's city center and an hour's drive to Brussels airport. Any employee perks such as special prices or discounts on company products? No, zilch, none. Matter of fact, employees aren't even allowed to sample the wares at work.

I can't see the office of owner and Managing Director Lestte Lerno. Why? Because Eckhout says Ms. Lerno isn't here today. I ride off empty-handed as I'm not offered any goodies.

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