Bite: In praise of the provinces


Province launches website to show off its finest regional produce, recipes and food news

Alan Hope explores Flemish food and drink

Back in September, we reported how tourism minister Geert Bourgeois wanted Flanders to promote its regional food and drink products – known as streekproducten – in a more co-ordinated manner. Bourgeois wanted to see the entire region help with promotion, where sometimes the job is currently being left to the provinces.

It's a worthy goal, but one that will take some time to bring to fruition. In the meantime, two provinces – Flemish Brabant and East Flanders – are taking giant steps forward in the realm of streekproducten.

The economic council of East Flanders province (EROV) wants to go one step further and create a European centre of expertise in the field, bringing together know-how and suggestions from other regions in Europe.

EROV recently organised a seminar with representatives from East Flanders, from Pistoia in the Italian province of Tuscany, and from Poznan in Poland and Kent in England. Among the ideas shared among the group: a campaign in Kent to have consumers spend 10% of their food budget on locally produced foods, and from Tuscany, the growth of regional products to become part of the area’s image.

The group could easily have looked to Flemish Brabant for an example of best practice. Back in 2011, the province published what can only be described as an encyclopaedia of its own regional products, many of which have also received the seal of approval of the Flemish marketing board Vlam – such as table grapes from Hoeilaart and Overijse (pictured), cheesecake, watercress and witloof

Scratching the surface

Now Flemish Brabant has created a comprehensive website that features the products, producers, events and recipes. The range of products is eye-popping: no fewer than 567, from kriek-filled chocolates from Gooik to the dark beer called Zwet – a dialect word for zwart or black. There are 132 producers listed, each with a page of biography, address details and links to their products. 

If we want to maintain our role as a marketing pioneer, we have to be innovative

- Paul Vleminckx

“Flemish regional products are presented to the consumer in a contemporary manner,” explains Paul Vleminckx, chair of Streekproducten Vlaams-Brabant. “If we want to maintain our role as a marketing pioneer, we have to be innovative.”

The site also lists a small sample of the restaurants and bars in the province, which includes the Leuven restaurant Trente of Kwinten De Paepe, young Flemish top chef of 2011.

“The digital world is evolving at lightning speed, with social media and apps playing an ever-larger role in our lives through the use of smartphones and tablets,” said Monique Swinnen, the province’s deputy for agriculture and rural policy. “Our new website provides us with an answer to that trend. User-friendliness and accessibility are central to the design, without losing sight of the visual aspect.”

Photo: – L Collet