Belgian Chocolate Gallerie 1900 Neuhaus

Throughout the centuries, Belgium has built an excellent reputation for the art of chocolate making. It all started in the 17th century in Ghent. Today, Belgium hass more than 320 chocolateries and produces over 725,000 tons of chocolate each year. Read on and learn more about its history.


Belgian Chocolate 17th Century

17th century

We find the first signs of chocolate trading in Belgium in 1635 in Ghent when the abbot of Baudeloo Abbey bought chocolate. Chocolate making was then mostly a sideline of pharmacists who sold it as a tonic

Belgian Chocolate Chocolats Meyers

19th century

In 1840, Belgian chocolate maker Berwaerts sold the first pressed chocolate tablets, pastilles and figurines. It was around this time that several chocolate makers were founded that grew into large companies such as Neuhaus (1857), Côte d’Or (1883), Jacques (1896) and Callebaut (1911).

Belgian Chocolate 20th Century - World Expo '58 Brussels

20th century: the century of Belgian inventions

Four important inventions mark the history of Belgian chocolate: the invention of the praline and the ballotin, the introduction of the chocolate spread and the development of the transport of liquid chocolate.

In 1912, Jean Neuhaus Jr. invented the praline, the first chocolate with a soft filling.
In 1915, Louise Agostini, wife of Jean Neuhaus Jr JR, developed the first ‘ballotin’, a box in which pralines were packed.
In 1925 Charles Callebaut made one of the most important inventions: the transport of liquid chocolate.
In 1935 Basile Kestekidès, the nephew of the founder of Leonidas, invented the ‘Manon’, a large praline coated in white chocolate.
In 1936 Jacques launched the first filled chocolate bar with praliné.

Chocolate spread is also a Belgian invention: first launched by Côte d’Or in 1952. Côte d’Or also boosted the reputation of Belgian chocolate internationally through a major campaign at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

Belgian Salon du Chocolat: tasting of chocolate - ©Eric Danhier

21st century

Belgian chocolate in Flanders and Brussels is world-wide appreciated for its quality.

Belgian chocolate sellers in Flanders and Brussels are praised all over the world for their creativity and innovation

Facts & figures

  • Consumption of chocolate per person in Belgium: 6 kg  
  • Total turnover of the Belgian chocolate industry: 4,179 billion euros (confectionery included) 
  • Total production: 661,673 tonnes 
  • Total exports: 578,043 tonnes 
  • Total retail sales value of the Belgian chocolate market: 700 million euros 
  • Proportion of the workforce employed in the chocolate industry: 8,5%  
  • Proportion of exports of the chocolate and confectionary industry: 11,2%  
  • Number of chocolate and pastry plants: 320 
  • Number of employees involved in the production of chocolate and confectionery: 7,619 employees (confectionery included) 
  • Raw cacao arriving at the port of Antwerp: 190,000 tonnes
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