Vandemoortele N.V.

Privately-held Vandemoortele, with revenues of 804 million euros and over 2,600 employees, ranks as Belgium's second largest food group. Home for the company is in Izegem, a small town of 10,000 inhabitants, located about 60 miles west of Brussels.

It's not hard finding the head office as it shares a huge site with a factory. Right across the street trains pass by and downtown Izegem lies a few blocks away. It's almost noon as I enter the lobby. I count 11 plants (real) scattered around the reception area and there's a glass display displaying some of the company's products which includes soy foods, butter and cooking oils. I'm also curious about a Cargill sign on a wall. Cargill is the world's largest privately-held concern and is huge in the food business. Do they own or are they part owners of the company?

I explain to receptionist Linda Matton my sending a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Jean Vandemoortele. Oh, oh, it's bad news as Matton says this isn't the head office. It seems senior management hang their hats about 25 miles away in Gent, a city I visited only a few days ago. I ask, "I mailed the letter here, would it have been forwarded to Mr. Vandemoortle in Gent?". Matton doesn't know so she calls the Gent office. No one answers the phone and Matton figures it has to do with it being lunchtime. Jeez, I'm disappointed. How hard would it have been for someone in CEO Vandemoortele's office to e-mail me saying I had the wrong address? I decide it's not worth cycling back to Gent and bid adieu to receptionist Matton, who by the way rides her bike to work. And what's the deal with Cargill? Cargill does business with Vandemoortele and rents office space here.