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Swiss chocolate king Barry Callebaut is sweet on Flanders

As chocolate is one of Flanders’ most renowned exports, it’s not surprising that Barry Callebaut – global leader in high-quality chocolate and cocoa products – is stationed in the region. What’s more, the company has a unique link with Flanders. Discover the Swiss chocolate king’s secret sauce to its success in the region.

The art and craft of chocolate

Built on 175 years of chocolate heritage, the Barry Callebaut Group was born in 1996 when Belgian company Callebaut and Cacao Barry, a French firm, merged their businesses. Today, Barry Callebaut is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland and forms both the heart and engine of the world’s chocolate industry. At every step of the way, from materials sourcing and product development to customer service, enthusiasm and passion continue to be the driving forces behind this corporation. Its ambition: to be top of mind in all relevant consumer segments.

To that aim, the company has mastered the art of chocolate-making: “We use the techniques and rely on the knowhow of some of the world’s best chocolatiers. This enables us to skillfully process cocoa beans into the finest chocolate products,” explains Masha Vis-Mertens, vice president of Operations and Supply Chain Organization EMEA for Barry Callebaut Group. “In addition to the professional artisans and chefs who use our premium chocolate, we also provide global and regional food manufacturers with our chocolate and cocoa products. As a result, there is Barry Callebaut in 25% of all chocolate and cocoa products sold worldwide.”

A taste of innovation

To win over food professionals and chocolate lovers around the globe, Barry Callebaut constantly seeks to reinvent itself. “Innovation is at the core of our company,” adds Masha Vis-Mertens. “Recently, we even revolutionized the way consumers look at chocolate by launching the now-legendary, naturally pink ‘Ruby’ chocolate – which took 13 years to develop.” Where? In Flanders! This unique chocolate was developed at its Wieze production site, which is home to the world’s largest chocolate factory.

Innovation is at core of our company. We always strive to be one step ahead.

Masha Vis-Mertens
VP Operations & Supply Chain Organization EMEA, Barry Callebaut Group

Sustainable logistics

To serve its international market even better, Barry Callebaut decided to set up a global distribution center in the E17/4 business park in the city of Lokeren. The new state-of-the-art logistics hub is over 60,000 square meters in surface area. Completely in line with Barry Callebaut's sustainability strategy, the center will be fully automated and energy neutral, equipped with solar panels, geothermal energy solutions, charging stations for electric vehicles and extensive facilities for cycling commuters.

Future growth is guaranteed

“As a result of growing global demand for Barry Callebaut products, it was necessary to prepare for even more growth in the future, increase our efficiency to benefit our customers and employees and support greater mobility. The realization of our new global distribution center is a perfect example of our smart growth strategy, which is based on four long-term priorities for above-market growth: expansion, innovation, cost leadership and sustainability.”

“Lokeren was the obvious choice for the expansion of our business. It’s ideally located between Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels – where most of our local customers are. The proximity of our two main production sites in Wieze and Halle will allow us to optimize our logistics flow to and from the distribution center. With this, Lokeren will also become a real export hub because, via the Port of Antwerp, we have our main export gateway nearby.”

The new center is a perfect example of our smart growth strategy, which is based on four priorities: expansion, innovation, cost leadership and sustainability.

Masha Vis-Mertens
VP Operations & Supply Chain Organization EMEA, Barry Callebaut Group

Flanders’ sweetheart

The expansion follows the company’s 2017 capacity investments in its production lines in Halle and Wieze, Flanders – which can be considered the home of Belgian chocolate, as their roots go back to 1911. “We continue to reinvest in our local sites, demonstrating our loyalty and commitment,” says Vis-Mertens. “All current employees of the logistics center in Aalst will make the switch to Lokeren, and we also expect the new center to create more jobs.”

We continue to reinvest in our local sites, demonstrating our loyalty and commitment to Flanders.

Masha Vis-Mertens
VP Operations & Supply Chain Organization EMEA, Barry Callebaut Group
Highlighting the local importance of this investment project, Barry Callebaut was presented Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy on 11 February 2020. The Swiss company emerged victorious from a pool of 5 nominated foreign investors. “We will continue to reinvest in our local sites, demonstrating our loyalty and commitment to Flanders.”

More info

Barry Callebaut
Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
2 December 2020

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Why Swiss chocolate king Barry Callebaut is sweet on Flanders

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