Family-owned chocolate manufacturer Galler, based in Vaux-sous-Chèvremont, a district of Chaudefontaine in Liege province, has been sold in its entirety to a group from the Gulf state of Qatar. The company was founded by Jean Galler in 1976. Last year he stepped down as managing director, but the management remained Belgian, despite the acquisition of a block of shares by a Qatari partner, a group owned by the Al Thani family, in 2006. That holding became a majority stake in 2011.
Now the Qataris own 100% of the company, but have given the assurance the company itself will retain its Belgian character, still based in Vaux-sous-Chèvremont, and led by Salvatore Ianello, who first introduced the Qataris to the company.
Jean Galler has no intention of continuing in the industry, he told the RTBF, but is regretful of the way things turned out. “We tried to buy the company back, so that Galler could remain 100% Belgian, but it didn’t work out,” he said. “You have to give yourself goals in life, but you can’t attain them all. Here we have a goal I failed to attain. I prefer now to retire and turn to something else.”
Galler is not the only Belgian chocolate maker in the hands of foreign interests. The same goes to a greater or lesser extent for Pierre Marcolini (UK), Cote d’Or (US), Guylain (South Korea), Godiva (Turkey) and Callebaut (Switzerland). Neuhaus and Leonidas remain in Belgian hands, as do independent chocolatiers such as Laurent Gerbaud and The Chocolate Line of Dominique Persoone.
However despite widespread foreign ownership, the multinational partners prefer that the chocolate remains Belgian, where 740,000 tonnes of chocolate is produced every year.