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Belgium’s love affair with chocolate: The number of speciality shops doubles in past 10 years
The number of chocolate shops in Belgium has doubled in the past 10 years, with the country now boasting 755 stores selling the country’s culinary speciality.
While chocolatiers will be taking a welcome breather after the busy Easter holiday season, RTBF reports on the confectionary business beloved by Belgians and tourists alike.
Chocolate shops increasingly offer more visually appealing products that are less sweet and reflect the growing trend for organic, local and fairtrade produce, it says.
One chocolate maker who recently opened his own shop is Olivier Berchem, who specialises in patissery and ice-cream as well as chocolate. He told RTBF that taste was not the only criteria for products on display at his shop Toque & moi in Huy, Liège province: "Customers first eat with their eyes and will be attracted by the visual. Then of course there’s the taste, because it’s through this that the customer tends to come back."
Like many other rising chocolate-specialised pastry chefs, Berchem aims to build a reputation for artisan and local confectionary. “We try to work with as many small local producers as possible, as quickly as possible, and highlight them."
Belgians eat on average five kilos of chocolate a year
The report notes Belgium’s love affair with chocolate and the ubiquity of the product in people’s daily lives. Annually, Belgians consume five kilos of chocolate; one reason why the number of specialised stores is rising.
Another ambitious professional is Fatou Mané, who’s in the process of retraining as a chocolatier. If cocoa confectionary wasn’t her first vocation, she’s nevertheless setting her sights on an international career.
"I make a lot of products with chocolate. And my dream, once my training is finished, is to open my chocolate factory, and why not in Dakar," she says.
Mané is one of many passionate chocolate professionals who continue to be seduced by the trade. And as long as Belgium’s appetite for all things cocoa doesn’t diminish, she’s unlikely to be the last.