The Belgian food industry is a robust sector with a wide variety of activities.
Name it and Belgium makes it
Oils, Fats & Margarines
One of the bigger sub-sectors of the Belgian food industry is the oil and fats sector.
Sustainability is extremely important for the Belgian food industry, in particular for the Belgian producers using palm oil in their products. The Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil illustrates how we commit ourselves to excelling in sustainability as well. The objective of the Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil is clearly ambitious: by the end of 2015, all palm oil present in food products destined for the Belgian market have to be sustainable! This initiative reflects the approach of the Oil, Fats and Margarines sub-sector. Quality, diversity, innovation and sustainability are taken seriously, resulting in irreproachably high quality.
Do you wonder why Belgian malts are so widely desired? Or why Belgian expertise is so outstanding? Beer, of course. No malt means no beer, and so Belgium, producing the most acclaimed beers in the world, of course has a very high-performing malt industry. The reputation of the beloved Belgian malts is based on a very stringent selection of high-quality grain, expert production knowledge and technologies and an extremely thorough quality monitoring through the malting process.
Your products deserve Belgian quality ingredients. A great guarantee of a high-level consumer product and benefit to you.
FBM is the Federation of Belgian Malters
As Belgium is a real gourmet country with an exquisite gastronomic reputation we are of course always ready to indulge our consumers with the finest food products.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Belgian ready meals are so highly appreciated. The Belgian market accounts for 183,842 tons of ready meals, also called ready-to-eat or convenience meals.
BREMA is the Belgian Ready Meals Association
Belgian meat deserves its great reputation.
It meets your needs fully. Its high quality and succulence distinguishes Belgian meat and you really should taste it to fully understand its exquisite reputation. And again, diversity is one of the aspects of our meat: veal, pork, beef, poultry etc, before even mentioning the almost endless varieties of processed meat. The excellence of our processed meat is the result of traditional craftsmanship, recipes and knowledge combined with an incredible willingness to innovate, improve and secure in order to impress our consumers with our highly praised meat products.
FEBEV is the Federation of the Belgian Slaughterhouses.
FENAVIAN is the Federation for the Preparation and Preservation of Meat.
VIP is the federation of Belgian Poultry Slaughterhouses
The Belgian Meat Office, founded in 2003 under the umbrella of VLAM (Flanders' Agricultural Marketing Board), has a remarkable website: www.belgianmeat.com.
Dairy & vegetable alternatives for dairy
Belgian dairy businesses collect milk from farms and process it, ensuring long life conservation, and/or use it to produce excellent, healthy and tasty dairy products. Beyond the great taste of our dairy products there is an additional and extremely important reason why Belgian milk is your best guarantee of commercial success: for years and years now, the dairy sector has been a top monitored and secured subsector of the food industry, ensuring that consumers receive the best they can get. And as we all know: health issues can ruin your commercial efforts. So take advantage of one of Belgium’s extremely well monitored food products.
BCZ/CBL is the Federation of the Belgian Dairy Industry.
Chocolate & Confectionary
The Belgian biscuit, chocolate, praline and confectionary sector has 350 companies and 10,408 employees. Surprised?
No country has a reputation for chocolate like Belgium. The whole world knows: Belgian chocolate is of a superior quality. From the highly stringent selection of the cocoa beans to the golden craftsmanship of our ‘chocolatiers’… Belgian chocolate and pralines are the result of timeless excellence in indulgence. It’s still food, of course, but it’s also much more. It is an expression of a most refined art and there is hardly any equivalent that offers such pleasure to the taste buds.
Of course indulgence is the magic word in almost all Belgian food, but you can bet on it…our confectionary fully reflects our national character: indulgence reinforced by quality, craftsmanship, innovation and a rich diversity. Enjoy!
CHOPRABISCO is the Royal Belgian Association for Biscuits, Chocolate, Pralines and Confectionary.
Processed fruit & vegetables
Canned or frozen, Belgian processed fruit and vegetables are renowned for their excellent quality.
Do people really like them? Or is this just more sales talk? Let’s be frank: Belgian food products simply have a degree of excellence, that means the facts can speak for themselves.
Do you want an example? The Belgian frozen vegetables sector is a European leader. And subsidiaries of West Flemish frozen vegetable companies have been set up in Portugal, Spain, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Austria…so guess why we are European market leader!?
VEGEBE is the Union of the Belgian Fruit and Vegetable Processing Sector.
Grain mill products & starch products
The highest quality standards are attained by monitoring the whole production flow, starting with the testing of the incoming products through monitoring of the production process and ending with the final screening of the outgoing products. That’s exactly how the Belgian grain mill and starch products are certified as excellent on all levels. The variety of mixes proposed by the mills is one of the reasons Belgian bread and pastries are amongst the most delicious ever known.
ARMB is the Belgian Royal Milling Association.
As a supplier of products for bread, cakes, chocolate and ice cream, this sub-sector of the Belgian food industry meets the highest levels of quality and taste as demanded by the epicurean Belgian consumer. Many of their product innovations are convenience driven, simplifying the stressful life of many bakers, and of course, many other innovations are sales-driven innovations, ensuring higher consumer demand and thus guaranteeing better commercial success.
Welcome to paradise. No country other than Belgium can lay claim to such highly-praised beer.
The Belgian Union of Brewers is one of the oldest guilds, not only in Belgium but worldwide.
With its breweries ranging from small family brewers through medium-sized companies to big international brewers, it offers a range of beers varying in taste and flavours. This rich variety perfectly illustrates the amazing diversity the Belgian food industry has to offer. Beer has always been deeply rooted in Belgian culture and often wins prizes in international contests. Fruity, bitter, sour… you name it, you are bound to find Belgian beers offering the exact taste your consumer desires.
Offering your consumers Belgian beer is a sure ticket to your own commercial paradise.
Belgian Beer has become an international ambassador and is becoming a more and more appreciated export product.
BELGIAN BREWERS is one of the oldest professional associations in the world and all Belgian breweries are members.
Mineral waters & soft drinks
The main products in this sub-sector are different types of bottled water including spring, sparkling and purified water, and a huge variety of soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks.
Don’t underestimate Belgian quality. One might think that Belgian food excellence is reserved for certain categories or types of products…but that would be a huge mistake. Let’s illustrate how the Belgian food sector guarantees quality, innovation and diversity in this sub-sector:
SPA is a Belgian brand of international renown: Spadel is the Benelux leader in the natural mineral waters sector. It obtained the first European Quality Prize for Natural Mineral Water out of around 2,000 different types of water.
Soft drinks and innovation: another perfect Belgian match. Do you know that the Coca Cola’s second biggest research and development centre, after the one in Atlanta, is located in Belgium?
And do you know why many international companies like to test their products in Belgium before launching them internationally!? To put it simply, the Belgian market is a fusion of many types of consumers with a variety of cultural determined food preferences. If you can successfully market a food product in Belgium, you can market it abroad as well. And that is one of the secrets of why Belgian food is amongst the most acclaimed ever. This goes for our soft drinks as well…Cheers!
FIEB is the Belgian Association of Water and Soda industries. It represents the producers of non-alcoholic beverages.
Belgium is like a delicious, sweet dream. Exquisitely mouth-watering confections seduce you from all around. Delicious! Chocolate and fine biscuits belong to the same family of foods here. The same appreciation of the good life lies at the heart of both chocolate and biscuit craftsmanship.
Belgian biscuits are amongst the finest and most indulgent food pleasures you can imagine. Customer satisfaction is guaranteed. Some of our exquisite biscuit makers are great innovators whilst others uphold the most sought-after secret knowledge of traditional but timeless exquisiteness. Discover the great Belgian producers and brands in our database.
CHOPRABISCO is the Royal Belgian Association for Biscuits, Chocolate, Pralines and Confectionary.
“Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey”, The Searchers
Imagine a life without sweetness…
Belgian sugar is essentially beet sugar. You would be quite surprised if you discovered the many different consumer products created by this Belgian food sub-sector. Belgian food finesse will use one kind of sugar on top of Belgian waffles, another for pancakes, one for baking pastries and yet another type of sugar for producing jams. Whilst the diversity of consumer products is amazing, a huge proportion of these products are of course intended for the industry. Quality, diversity and innovation lead to great customer and consumer satisfaction. The excellence of food products starts with the outstanding quality of the carefully chosen ingredients. Your consumers’ sweetest dreams definitely start with quality ingredients like Belgian sugar.
SUBEL is the Federation of Belgian Sugar Producers
Coffee & Tea
Why should Belgium also be a country of coffee and tea excellence? The answer is quite simple. Antwerp, the biggest port of Belgium has been one of the main portals to Western Europe for centuries, and thus Belgium has occupied a privileged position in both exports and imports for centuries. Hence coffee has been part of our culture for as long as we can remember, and by extension so has tea. Belgian coffee producers serve exquisite coffee by using a global quality approach ensuring outstanding and greatly appreciated gourmet products. It all starts with the selection of the best plantations and carefully hand-picked berries, followed by the method used for extraction of the beans.
The many quality control inspections ensure that only the very best beans are finally selected to be roasted. And then it is time for state-of-the-art roasting. It is this splendid mastery that ensures the exceptional flavours of Belgian coffee.
Finally, vacuum packaging preserves the great flavours.
Condiments, seasoning & sauces
Belgian fries are often considered amongst the best around the world. Our food reputation goes far further than our excellent beers or great chocolates… Ultimately it isn’t difficult to find more examples of Belgian food excellence, is it? What do we like to pour on top of our delicious fries? Mayonnaise of course, or ketchup, mustard perhaps, or one of the many other excellent Belgian sauces.
The Belgian food sub-sector of condiments, seasoning and sauces is best compared to an Aladdin’s cave: a treasure of high quality condiments, seasonings and sauces produced with the finest ingredients and with well-known tremendous savoir faire. Tradition, innovation and irreproachable quality result in an exceptional variety of delicious products.
Nowhere will you find such a large range of long-life sauces as in Belgium. We are also able to produce quite small batches, which often gives us a significant export advantage.
CULINARIA BELGIUM is the Belgian Association of Producers of Condiments, Seasonings and Sauces
Pasta? Belgian pasta? Come on…I can almost hear your thoughts.
But you will be surprised! Yes, even Belgian pasta is amongst the best pasta in the world.
Did you know that of all the ethnic minorities here in Belgium the largest is…Italian? Even the current Belgian prime minister has Italian origins.
So yes! Yes, we can! But the proof of the pudding is still in the eating: let’s look at our European commercial success to illustrate our leadership in pasta. Who is in the leading producer of fresh lasagne in Europe? Right: it’s a Belgian producer: Ter Beke.
We produce quite a lot of industrial products for bakeries, distributors, food service and food-processing companies in Belgium. Our exports are worldwide. Quality has no boundaries. Belgian food products are generally appreciated all over the world. And so is our pasta!
The Belgium North Sea coast is a wonderful place for recreation, holidays and… for enjoying fresh seafood! The fish industry as part of the Belgian food industry is also well-known. Belgium imports a lot of fish but exports a lot too. In 2011 we exported about 177,000,000 kilograms of fish and fish products. Freshness, excellence and sustainability are core business for this Belgian food sub-sector.
Alcohol: cider & wine
Wine is produced in both Wallonia and Flanders and amazingly the first Belgian wine dates back to the Middle Ages. We love eating and drinking. We are wine lovers and of course huge beer lovers, but we also consume cider and to some extent spirits. We are certainly innovative in this sub-sector of the Belgian food market as well. And innovation extends from product type to packaging.
Cider is quite popular on the English-speaking markets. One of the main Belgian producers launched a new way of drinking it - “on the rocks” - and packaged their product in portion-sized bottles. It boomed.
The inventiveness of the Belgian food industry creates new opportunities for commercial success for their partners. Take advantage of our knowledge, quality and innovative spirit and join a winning team: the Belgian food industry.
Herbal preparations & food supplements
Phytotherapy is the study of the use of extracts from natural origins as health-promoting agents. This sub-sector of the Belgian food industry is innovative and driven by extremely high quality. It develops preparations and supplements, often enhancing or helping to maintain one’s health. The growing interest in the use of extracts from natural origins clearly boosts our companies’ success and their considerable efforts in research and development. Innovation, quality and diversity are once again the essential aspects of success.
NAREDI is the Federation of Herbal Preparations and Food Supplements.
The Belgian potato-processing industry has evolved into the world’s largest exporter of frozen potato products, preceding the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. The remarkable increase in exports to countries outside the EU is characteristic of this growth.
The Belgian potato-processing industry has experienced spectacular growth over recent decades. The companies active in this sector (most of them family owned enterprises) have succeeded – along with primary producers and traders – in growing from 500,000 tons of processed potatoes in 1990 to 3.65 million tons of raw material in 2012. This means a new increase of about 5.4 % compared with 2011.
BELGAPOM is the Association for the Belgian Potato Trade and Processing Industry.
In Belgium we are fond of ice cream. We consume it at home as well as on the go.
The quality of Belgian ice cream is often paired with that of Belgian chocolate… imagine a delicious vanilla ice cream coated in real Belgium chocolate! And once again we can be proud of the diversity of our ice cream products, rich in flavours or packaging and product types. Imagine for instance enjoying a real Belgian ice praline…
FEBELGLACES is the Association of the Belgian Ice Cream Industry.
Belgian fruit juices and fruit drinks are made of carefully selected domestic or imported fruits. With the Port of Ghent as the fruit juice import terminal in Europe, we have an important asset for the importation of our fruit and fruit juice concentrates. Freshness and safety are extremely important, making our juices really tasty and healthy sources of vitamins and minerals. We excel in the diversity of our products, whether fresh or long-life, our packaging formats and our flavours and flavour blends.
AJUNEC is the Belgian Fruit Juice Association
From SMEs to big multinationals
The Belgian food industry consists of 4,452 companies. This considerable number can be explained by the large number of small and medium-sized enterprises. In fact, 53.4 % of all food companies (of which the majority are artisan bakers) employ fewer than 5 staff and 83.4 % employ fewer than 20.
The sector has very few big companies. There are only 168 companies employing more than 100 workers. Thanks to this unique mix of big and small companies, consumers are offered a wide variety of quality products.
Traditional, artisanal and innovative food
Our gastronomic qualities are based on a historical savoir faire and cultural commitment. Belgian consumers recognize and appreciate quality. They push the Belgian food industry to continuous improvement and innovation. Tradition and artisanal knowledge are an inherent part of the Belgian food industry. But innovation is another important driving force that contributes to the excellence of our products. Competitiveness and innovation go hand in hand.
By intensively working together on innovation, food companies can improve their competitiveness.
Organic, halal, kosher, slow food, healthy food and diet food… Belgian food companies are continuously looking for better nutrition for better health, with a variety of tastes, catering for different cultures and lifestyles.
In the Belgian food industry you’ll find certified halal and kosher products, organic products, healthy and diet foods. This is all part of the impressive diversity of our food industry.
Diversity case studies
One of our best known and most successful export products is beer. It’s also a great example of product diversification, because in Belgium we have more than 1000 different beers!
Belgian beer is brewed according to four different fermentation processes:
- bottom fermentation (Pilsner beers or lager): a method used worldwide ;
- top fermentation (Belgian special beers, white beers, abbey and Trappist beers, strong blond, regional beers – some of which are already imitated in other countries);
- spontaneous fermentation (gueuze, lambic and other fruit beers);
- combined fermentation (brown-acid beers and South Flemish beers).
Technical knowhow and process engineering are one of our driving forces, leading to our renowned product diversification.
Chocolate, Biscuits, Pralines and Confectionary
Belgium is the sweetest paradise you can imagine. There are countless products in this sector. The Belgian biscuit, chocolate, praline and confectionary sector has 350 companies, 10,408 employees and a turnover of 5.3 billion euros. In this industry, diversity really knows no bounds! Our chocolatiers create magic indulgence with compelling tradition and knowledge. Their innovative creativity surprises delighted consumers around the world.
“Made in Belgium” is appreciated all over the world:
Exports continue to rise
As much as 56 % of exports end up in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Yet exports to non-EU countries are also growing in importance. The three main non-EU importers of Belgian food products are the United States, Japan and China. Especially the United States and China are growing fast.
Our main export products are meat, dairy, frozen potato products, chocolate and beer.
Source: NBB-INR (national design), GN Codes 02, 03, 04, 07, 09, 10, 11, 15 to 22
The three regions of Belgium – Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels region – actively promote the export initiatives of Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-based companies. They also support companies taking their first steps into export or onto new markets.
Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels region have their own export promotion agencies: Flanders Invest and Trade (FIT), the Walloon agency for export and foreign investments (AWEX) and Brussels Invest and Export (BIE). The Belgian food sector is a priority sector for these three agencies which means that they are actively present at food fairs, they provide support to the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels food companies, they jointly promote the Belgian food sector via “Food.be – Small country. Great food.” and so on.
Check out the activities of the three Belgian export promotion agencies on their website:
If you are particularly interested in fresh farm and fishery products, the website of the Flemish Centre for Agricultural and Fishery Marketing is also interesting: www.vlam.be.
Some big Belgian export success stories
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Chocolate is one of the best known Belgian products worldwide.
Quality, stringent cocoa selection, multi-monitoring, exceptional expertise, tradition and technology with a dose of culturally owned gastronomy: these are the secrets to the worldwide fame of the fine chocolate we all long for. The biggest chocolate factory in the world is located in…Belgium, of course.
It’s as famous as our chocolate: Belgian beer is widely acclaimed as the best in the world.
Belgium is a beer paradise. From small family brewers to big multinationals, we have 124 brewers whose beers have contrasting tastes and flavours. Fruity, bitter or acidic…their diversity is rivalled only by the high quality of our cherished beers. We have more than 1000 different beers in Belgium…cheers!
3. Processed potato products
Belgium’s got talent. In food we’ve got lots of huge talents. The Belgian potato processing industry is clearly a big success. History books tell us that Belgian fries came into being at the end of the 18th century, when people in the region of Namur and Dinant tried to find a substitute for the small fish they used to eat, which were inaccessible during a particularly cold winter when the rivers were frozen. So they fried small wedges of potato instead. Our country has retained this unique ‘fries culture’ through the years and has built up an ultra-modern potato processing industry along the way. Belgium now ranks first among world exporters. Around 90% of Belgian processed potato products are exported worldwide.
4. Frozen vegetables
The Belgian frozen vegetables sector is a European market leader.
Their story started in 1965 with the first company to start producing frozen vegetables. The Belgian vegetable-growing region of South and West Flanders has no less than 12 companies. Together they account for more than a quarter of the European production of frozen vegetables, which places them amongst the European market leaders today. Subsidiaries of the West Flemish frozen vegetable companies have been set up in Europe, Spain, France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Austria.
A Belgian cookie enjoyed around the world.
The caramelised biscuit called “speculoos” is a cookie known and appreciated around the world. It’s the perfect companion to a cup of coffee. The caramelised taste blends wonderfully with coffee to give a unique taste sensation. Today, consumers in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia are hooked on these caramelised biscuits.
The international group Spadel produces and sells natural mineral water and soft drinks. Spadel is the Benelux market leader in the natural mineral water sector. Spa Natural mineral water obtained the first European Quality Prize for Natural Mineral Water out of around 2,000 different types of water in Europe.
The company applies extremely strict measures to protect the water resources that extend over an area of 13,177 hectares. The purity of its water is exceptional.
7. Fresh Lasagne
The Belgian company Ter Beke is the European leader in fresh lasagne. The company operates eight industrial sites in Belgium, the Netherlands and France and employs approximately 1,800 people. It’s just another example of Belgian quality being successfully exported. The company is also the largest supplier of pre-packed processed meats in the Benelux.