The Belgian confectionery association Choprabisco is considering applying for protected geographical indication for Belgian chocolate to protect authentic producers from imitations.
The organization has sent around 25 warning letters in the last two years to foreign companies falsely purporting to produce products from Belgium.
Usually the association will cite legislation in the infringing market or take the matter up with the local embassy, but it is a planning a feasibility study for special protection in the EU after rules were relaxed.
Chocolate cannot have European Union Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) status like Parma Ham, because the agricultural derivative, cocoa, is produced outside the EU.
However, reforms implemented last November make chocolate eligible for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) if one production step takes place in a single country.
Special status intervention
Guy Gallet, secretary general of Choprabisco told ConfectioneryNews.com: “We will study this with our authorities. No decision has been taken yet”
“If we don’t intervene, the danger is that Belgian chocolates becomes a different [generic] name.”
He said that imitators often claim a product is made in Belgium or is Belgian style or flavor but has no connection to the country.
‘Belgian Chocolate Code’
Choprabisco’s ‘Belgian Chocolate Code’ requires all chocolate labeled ‘Belgian Chocolate’ or ‘Chocolate from Belgium’ to contain chocolate that was mixed, refining, conched and molded in Belgium.
If a company outside Belgian manufactures a product up to the molding stage using Belgian chocolate as an ingredient it is acceptable to say it has been “made with Belgian chocolate”, but not that it is “Belgian Chocolate”.
Choprabisco has previously pursued companies for using small font for the letters “with” and large lettering for “Belgian” – making the product seem more Belgian than it really is.
Protection outside the EU
If Choprabisco does chose to apply for PGI it is not guaranteed protection outside the EU, and it could only act as a deterrent to a growing number of Asian companies making illicit references to Belgium.
“Especially in Asian countries there are products that are cheaper and of less quality but look the same,” said Gallet.
Some firms are claiming to be Belgian without using any Belgian chocolate and are even counterfeiting the packaging of real Belgian producers, he continued.
Choprabisco is currently contesting Turkish firm Pelit’s application to trademark the term “Belgian Perfection” in Turkey.
Belgian confectionery market
Choprabisco’s members include Belgian chocolate makers Belcolade, Neuhaus, Guylian and Leonidas.
The Belgian confectionery market has a production value €4bn ($5.1bn) and exports around 450,000 tons of chocolate annually. The majority (77%) of Belgian confectionery exports go to other EU countries, while Asia (8%) is the next most likely destination.