Belgian chocolate makers seek protection from copycats

Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:49am EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian chocolate makers believe their renowned pralines should have similar protection to that enjoyed by French champagne or Italy's Parma ham.

They want the term "Belgian chocolate" to be their exclusive preserve and also want to crack down on foreign rivals dressing up their products as "Belgian style" or of a "Belgian recipe".

Copycats, they say, eat into sales and undermine a stamp of quality built up over the century since Jean Neuhaus invented the hard-shelled, cream-filled chocolate, the praline, in 1912.

The industry federation will meet regional governments from next month to decide how Belgium might apply to the European Union to protect Belgian chocolates or perhaps seek a trademark to safeguard their treats.

"What makes us sad is that very often the copies are not up to the standard of the originals," Jos Linkens, chief executive of Neuhaus, told Reuters in an interview.

"If top chocolatiers around the world copied us, perhaps we would be happy. We don't want the image of quality to suffer," said Linkens, who is also president of Belgian biscuit, chocolate and confectionery federation Choprabisco.

Belgium is proud of its mastery of chocolate. It boasts more than 200 chocolate firms, over 2,000 chocolate stores and museums, tours and workshops, such as the Brussels museum of cocoa and chocolate.

Belgians say their years of experience has created a pool of chocolate-making talent, and success is a result of the skill of master chefs devising new cream fillings, rather than machines.   Continued...

Chocolate pralines are seen at Belgian chocolate maker Neuhaus in Vlezenbeek, near Brussels March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman