Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Belgian chocolate a global fad

There's at least one area where Belgium rules the world -- chocolate -- a British newspaper reports. Belgium the chocolate country? Undoubtedly. And for two obvious reasons: firstly, annual per capita consumption is just under 20 kg
(all categories taken together, consumption of chocolate
"confectionery" alone accounting, in finished product terms, for 8.1
kg/year per head of population) and secondly, and more importantly,
because there are almost 300 chocolate-makers whose expertise and
skill long ago won over connoisseurs worldwide.
The country has 2,000 chocolate shops, or one for about every 5,000 residents. Its 290 manufacturers produce 172,000 tons of chocolate every year, even though 140 of them are boutique chocolatiers with fewer than five employees, The Independent reports.
Some candy-makers specialize only in one type of filling.
Passion Chocolate -- run by a woman who decided to go into business after her husband's death -- has become so fashionable that Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt took its candies on a trade mission to the United States and its chocolates have been shipped to the White House. Another company, Chocolate Mary, has a photograph of President George W. Bush at the counter examining its products.
Smaller companies say the Internet is driving up their international sales. Chocolate Mary reports its air-freight shipments to the United States, India and South Korea have been doubling annually.

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