Postcard from... Brussels


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The Independent Online

Not content with issuing stamps infused with chocolate-flavoured glue and boasting an airport with more chocolate shops than anywhere else in the world, the Belgians are mulling going to the European Union to try to get their signature product protected.

Exasperated with “Belgianstyle” chocolates being sold everywhere from Hungary to China, Brussels wants similar protection afforded to sparkling wine from Champagne, cured ham from Parma, and pork pies from Melton Mowbray.

The coveted PFN (Protected Food Names) status could mean an end to the word “Belgian” being associated with any chocolate product not produced within the country itself. In particular, it is the praline chocolate that they want to protect.

“What makes us sad is that very often the copies are not up to the standard of the originals,” Jos Linkens, chief executive of the Neuhaus chocolate company, told Reuters news agency last month. “If top chocolatiers around the world copied us, perhaps we would be happy. We don’t want the image of quality to suffer.”

Chocolate makers will meet with regional governments this month to craft a plan for requesting PFN status.

Belgium’s chocolate industry is not only facing threats from cheap imitations. Innovations in other up-and-coming chocolate industries around the world are also forcing the traditional home of chocolate to look at new ways to boost the brand.

In one recent successful campaign, the Belgian Post Office last month issued stamps which smelled and tasted like the real thing. The stamps flew off the shelves.