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World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders

Excellent news for people with a sweet tooth everywhere! On October 21, 2021, Barry Callebaut inaugurated the world’s largest warehouse for chocolate in Lokeren, Flanders. The warehouse is a logistical gem where both people and robots stack up to 125,000 pallets, representing 75 million kilograms of chocolate, annually. “This warehouse is a game changer for our group,” emphasizes the Swiss chocolate firm, which won Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy with this project.

Barry Callebaut's Chocolate Box in Flanders, the world's largest chocolate warehouse.

75 million kilograms of chocolate

Barry Callebaut doesn’t just manage global logistics flows from Flanders, but also produces chocolate in the region. “Production is done in Wieze and Halle, where we make about half a million tons of Belgian chocolate every year: a quarter of the entire group’s production,” says Korneel Warlop, spokesperson for Barry Callebaut, which is considered to be the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer. “In Lokeren, where we carry out the logistics handling, the chocolate arrives already packaged in the form of 2,570 different types of products.”

“This warehouse in Flanders is a game changer for our group across the world. 75 million kilograms of chocolate will pass through here every year.”
Korneel Warlop, spokesperson at Barry Callebaut

Traveling the world from Flanders

Located along the E17 highway in Flanders, the new chocolate warehouse is 300 meters wide, 115 meters deep and up to 41 meters high. To put these figures into perspective: the surface area is the equivalent of about 12 soccer fields. There’s room to stack up to 125,000 pallets of chocolate.

“We don’t use this warehouse for consumer products like chocolate bars, but rather for packaged Callebaut chocolate destined for professional customers,” says Warlop. "These include artisan chocolatiers, the hospitality industry, pastry chefs, bakers, and so on. We also serve the industry, but we do so through liquid transports and heated tankers. This liquid chocolate, with specific recipes for each product and customer, is destined for cookie factories and other types of food producers. All over the world, chocolate makers order their raw material from Flanders.”

People and machines, hand in hand

At Barry Callebaut’s new warehouse, some 120 people work side-by-side with robots controlled by artificial intelligence. In the fully automated part of the warehouse – which is 41 meters high and offers room for 83,000 pallets – self-propelled cranes take the chocolate products from the shelves, without any human interference.

The cranes then move the products to a carousel with 23 suspended trolleys that drop them on a conveyor belt, after which they are taken via forklift to one of the 48 loading and unloading docks. A fine example of automation and robotization!

Eco-friendly chocolate

While the Barry Callebaut warehouse in Lokeren connects Belgian chocolate to the world, it does so in an energy-efficient and sustainable manner.

“65% of what we handle here in Lokeren goes by truck to Western Europe. The rest is transported by ship to 140 countries. From Flanders, we deliver chocolate to markets as far away as Australia, South America, and even China. To help make these activities more sustainable, we invested heavily in renewable energy.”
Korneel Warlop, spokesperson at Barry Callebaut

The new building is 100% energy-neutral. Even the heat coming from the brakes of the robots is captured and converted back into energy. There are also plenty of solar panels on the roof, producing enough energy to provide electricity for 1,000 families per year. What’s more, since the ideal temperature for chocolate is 18 degrees, the warehouse does not need to use air conditioning.

Korneel Warlop: “During the summer, we get cool air from the ground through heat coupling. In addition, we have insulated the walls so well that, should the cooling system fail, it would take at least a week before the chocolate started to melt.” But that’s a purely hypothetical problem, as Barry Callebaut is capable of handling incoming orders within twenty minutes. Talk about efficiency!

Learn more about Flanders’ innovative and sustainable food industry.

More info

Barry Callebaut
Reported by
Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper
28 October 2021

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