By Julian Lee and Vivian Kuo, Special to The China Post
Dozens of country pavilions, each more exotic than the next, strove to outdo each other with bright lights and flamboyant cuisine at Food Taipei 2017. But even in such vibrant surroundings, the Belgian pavilion organized by Flanders Investment and Trade stood out thanks to its swagger and authentic atmosphere. With a full bar serving up world-famous beer and uniformed chefs cooking an endless stream of crisp Belgian fries, the pavilion was one of the expo’s liveliest, with local and international visitors alike flocking to sample hearty Belgian fare.
Belgian Meat Products The representatives of the Belgian companies attending the event welcomed visitors with open arms, eager to share the tastes and products of their country with a new audience. Indeed, the number of companies at the pavilion reached a record high this year, with 54 Belgian brands represented at the country’s pavilion. Among the companies searching for local business partners and distributors to break into the promising Taiwanese market was the slaughterhouse Noordvlees Van Gool, which provides an assortment of pork products ranging from tongue to heart. A true exporter, Noordvlees Van Gool ships more than 80 percent of its products to Asia, the Caribbean and elsewhere in Europe. Similarly, the Belgian Pork Group, represented by international sales manager Michael Catry, aimed to add the Taiwanese market to its existing list of 50 overseas markets, including South Korea, China, Thailand and Malaysia. Asked about the popularity of products from Belgium, Catry said the country’s pork in particular was “perfect in the Asian market,” adding it had three attributes that set it apart from other varieties and that would attract Taiwanese consumers: the rosy hue, the perfect fat-meat ratio and its relative leanness. Insistence on Outstanding Quality Whereas Noordvlees Van Gool, the Belgian Pork Group and most Belgian vendors at the expo specialized in a single kind of product, the Asia Europe Trade company provided a myriad of signature Belgian foods. Company rep Shenny Chen said that although the range of food and beverages available was grand, including alcohol from the Wallonia region, chocolates, confectionery, beverages, groceries and dairy, all the products shared the Belgian insistence on outstanding quality. Another manufacturer that strove to share the exacting standards of Belgian cuisine with locals was Lutosa, one of Europe’s largest potato processors. Yves Deale, commercial director for South and East Asia at Lutosa, said French fries were an integral part of Belgian heritage, having been invented by the people of the Namur region to replace fish in their diets when rivers froze over in winter. Ever since, Deale said, Belgium has been home to the tastiest fries. Lutosa fries, unlike their American fast food counterparts, are made with non-GMO European potatoes, which are smaller but significantly more flavorful and crispy. Though Taiwanese customers are primarily acquainted with American “long fries,” Lutosa is confident that it will be able to penetrate the local market by educating consumers about the superior quality and taste of Belgian fries, Deale said.