Barry Callebaut wins Foreign Investment Trophy


Following a record year of inward investment in Flanders, four companies have been awarded a Foreign Investment Trophy

‘Strategic location’

A company created through the merger of Flemish and French chocolate producers has won the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy. Barry Callebaut was announced as the winner of the trophy that rewards significant foreign investment in the region the year before.

Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon awarded the trophy to Masha Vis-Mertens, vice-president of operations at Barry Callebaut, at a ceremony yesterday evening in Zaventem. The company emerged as the winner of the trophy following three rounds of voting by a professional jury, the general public and those present at the event.

The company was certainly the best known of the five nominees to the general public. Based in Zürich, Barry Callebaut is the result of a merger between Flemish chocolate producer Callebaut and French company Cacao Barry. It still operates under the Callebaut brand, both locally and abroad.

The Swiss company has released plans for the world’s largest chocolate warehouse, which will be built in Lokeren, East Flanders. It plans to move its European logistics site from Aalst to the new site.

It will be larger than the existing site, representing a total investment of €100 million. The 85 employees at the current logistics centre will move to the new site, and the company predicts that new jobs will be created. “With this investment, Barry Callebaut confirms Flanders’ strong logistics assets and strategic location,” said Jambon, awarding the trophy.

Attracting new investors is a must to keep our economy healthy and competitive

- Fit CEO Claire Tillekaerts

Foreign investment trophies, sponsored by Flanders Investment & Trade, were also awarded to three other companies for their outstanding contributions. American biotech research firm Inari was awarded the Newcomer of the Year Trophy.

“This trophy acknowledges a company’s first steps into Flanders,” commented Fit CEO Claire Tillekaerts. “Attracting new investors is a must to keep our economy healthy and competitive. 2019 was an absolute record year in that regard; never before have foreign companies guaranteed so many investments and created so many new jobs in the region.”

Fit CEO Claire Tillekaert (second from left) and minister-president Jan Jambon (far right) award the Newcomer of the Year Trophy to Inari

Inari recently opened a research centre in Ghent, where it is collaborating with knowledge institutions VIB and Ilvo on a new generation of seeds. Their aim is to develop crops with a greater yield and that are better suited to a variety of soils and weather conditions, as well as less dependent on water and fertilisers.

“Inari’s choice to operate here also showcases the importance of the intense collaboration between our region’s business environment on the one hand,” said Tillekaerts, “and our universities, colleges and knowledge centres on the other.”  

British chemical giant Ineos, meanwhile, won the Exceptional Investment Trophy, a new award inaugurated this year. “Last year, Ineos announced the construction of a new production site at the port of Antwerp – an investment of some €3 billion,” said Jambon. “There is no doubt that this is an exceptional investment. Not only is this amount the biggest investment ever made by Ineos, it is also the biggest made in the entire European chemical industry in 20 years.”

The Lifetime Achievement Trophy acknowledges Nike’s long and successful track record in Flanders

- Minister-president Jan Jambon

Finally, the winner of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Trophy was the legendary American company Nike. The sportswear giant’s first investment in Flanders was in 1994 when it built a distribution centre in Laakdal, Antwerp province.

Two more distribution centres followed, one immediately, also in Antwerp province, and the third in Limburg in 2007. Over the years, those three sites grew to become the European Logistics Campus, Nike’s main logistics gateway to the European market.

In addition, the company recently invested in two expansions in the Limburg distribution centre. One of these won Nike the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy in 2016.

“The Lifetime Achievement Trophy acknowledges Nike’s long and successful track record in Flanders,” said Jambon. “This international player has been continuously investing in Flanders for more than a quarter of a century and has grown into one of the main US-based employers in the region.”

Last year, foreign companies channelled a record €5.2 billion into sites in Flanders, generating the highest-ever number of new investment projects and additional jobs in the region.