Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Belgian chocolatiers seek protection from confectionery copycats

By Philip Blenkinsop  /  Reuters, BRUSSELS

Unlike earlier protected products, the chocolate itself does not come from Belgium, with the vast majority of cocoa beans originating in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Recently, the EU included “chocolate and derived products” as a specific category worthy of protection and this year, it modified its rule to say that a geographical indication could apply to products from a specific country.

Neuhaus’ Linkens believes it will happen, although could take some time.

The WTO is supposed to uphold protection of geographical indications, such as Colombian coffee, but can choose how to do so.

The EU’s recent bilateral trade deals, such as with South Korea and Colombia, have proven a stronger way to ensure mutual respect of protected products.

However, what counts as “Belgian chocolate” is open to debate.

Gallet says a problem is that in some cases the chocolate itself is from a Belgian facility of one of the bulk producers.

“That shouldn’t count as Belgian chocolate. What you should be saying is: ‘Made with Belgian chocolate,’” he said.

Since 2008, some Belgian producers have signed up to a non-binding chocolate code, specifying that to be labeled as “Belgian chocolate” the products must be refined and molded in Belgium, but even that has its critics, like Belgium-based Godiva Chocolatier.

Godiva has a very strong presence in North America, a market it supplies from a factory in Pennsylvania.

Guillaume de Foucault, Godiva’s general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said that these Godiva chocolates are still essentially Belgian, in the same way that one might think that a BMW made in South Carolina as still essentially a German car.

“Godiva started in 1926 in Belgium, we have a Belgian chef and Belgian facilities,” he said. “It’s important to include a lot of players. Some have difference areas of expertise. It would be very limiting if only chocolate produced in Belgium could be considered.”

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