The American food giant Cargill has plans to create what it calls a ‘house of chocolate’ in the Belgian city of Mouscron in Hainaut province close to the French border.
Cargill is a privately owned company, the largest such in the US, with revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars. It is active in just about every aspect of the food industry, from animal feed to livestock to processed foods.
Cargill is one of the major agrifood companies involved in the trade in bulk materials for the production of chocolate, and like the others has been criticised for its involvement in activities leading to the destruction of forest habitats in producer countries, as well as deforestation in national parks and other protected forests.
The plan for Mouscron is to spend €18 million developing an innovation hub where Cargill and its clients can develop new ideas in chocolate, including chocolate with reduced sugar, said Inge Demeyere, the company’s director for chocolate in Europe.
Cargill supplies every level of the food industry, from the largest manufacturers of confectionery and bakery products to artisanal chocolatiers, few of whom – Dominique Persoone of The Chocolate Line in Bruges is one – have their own private supply of origin chocolate. Instead they buy from major concerns like Cargill or Barry Callebaut and work those products into their own creations.
“More and more often they also develop new products with us, which is why we are building a chocolate centre,” Demeyere told De Tijd.
“There will be small studios where our 40 researchers will experiment together with our customers. There is also a small production line with which we can prepare the new products for industrial production.”
The room for innovation will not be restricted, she said.
“Many companies want to reduce the sugar content of their chocolate products because consumers want healthier foods. We help companies to reduce the sugar content without having too great an impact on taste.”
Cargill already has its main production facility in Mouscron, as well as two others in Antwerp and Kalmthout, together employing 250 people. The new house of chocolate will add ten to that number. The three factories have received investment of €70 million in the last eight years, including a doubling of capacity at Mouscron.