In 2022, the premium Belgian chocolate brand, famous for its chocolate seashells sold across four continents and in 120 countries, committed to sourcing 100% of its cocoa on Fairtrade terms. We talked with CEO Tom Snick about why Fairtrade is so important to Guylian’s mission:
Please introduce yourself – what is your role with Guylian?
I’m Tom Snick. I’ve been working for 25 years, and funny enough, I have always worked for products that come from nature. I worked on mineral water, I worked on pasta, I worked on bread, and now I’m working on chocolate. The companies and products I’ve worked with were mostly around before the industrial revolution, so there’s a clear throughline of industries that can go back to ‘doing it yourself.’
Tell me about your company. What’s your mission?
This company has grown behind one key product – that’s our seashell chocolate. Today, we’ve brought that seashell product alive again by having a complete relaunch. First of all, we created a new design. It’s been 20-25 years since anything changed for the brand identity. The new design, in our opinion, has a more modern look, a more sustainable look, a more premium look.
Secondly, we moved to completely recyclable packaging, and there’s still more to come on that front.
Thirdly, we moved back to the original recipe of the founder from 1958. Without entering in detail, this shift takes us back to a very authentic piece of chocolate. The differences may not look so big, but the taste difference is enormous.
And last, but not least, we moved to Fairtrade. If you ask me “What is the vision of this company?” this is what we are good at: premium Belgium chocolate with a seashell shape and praline filling that’s all completely sustainable.
It’s all about “stick to your roots. Do what you are good at, just make it adapted to the current standard,” meaning keep your quality and all your differentiation, but move to a product that has the least ecological footprint or the best ecological footprint.
What makes your product unique?
Basically, the seashell chocolates have three key aspects:
- First seashell shapes – we have 11 shapes designed and owned by us.
- Praline filled – that’s a very special concept. We roast our hazelnuts ourselves in a traditional method with copper kettles, but we are the last in the entire world that still make this praline filling like that. The artisanal way in which we roast our hazelnut gives it a unique taste that is un-copyable. That really is the pride of Guylian.
- And the third aspect is our marbled premium Belgium chocolate of three colors.
So, the three-color marble chocolate, the premium Belgium chocolate, the praline filling and the shapes – these all make our product unique. I always say it’s like Ferrero Rocher, it’s like Lindor – it is one single piece that is unique and doesn’t exist in other brands. It’s copied in private label, but not in brands. And that makes us unique.
Why did you choose to certify your cocoa with Fairtrade?
Fair trade, for us, is a very important step for a simple reason: it’s the only stamp or the only guarantee for a consumer that the farmer gets his fixed price.
For me, it was a no-brainer. I came to Guylian from a company that’s very strong on all that concerns communities and sustainability, so I have it already in my DNA. The point is, first of all, I carry fair trade as a personal responsibility. I feel a duty to do what I can to ensure that everybody gets a fair piece of the value chain. Secondly, I think it’s also a societal and company responsibility to act like that. Last but not least, if I buy a premium chocolate and I eat it with all the pleasure and indulgence I get from it, I also would like that the chocolate that I paid a premium price for, at least, is coming from Fairtrade.
“I carry fair trade as a personal responsibility.” – Tom Snick, CEO of Guylian
You see, I think the entire industry should do it, but it costs money. But, in return, we feel very comfortable that we can openly say to everybody, “we have Fairtrade chocolate.” I support absolutely initiatives for education, how to make better farming, etc, but when it comes to really taking care of the communities, it is about a guaranteed price for their cacao beans.
How do you use your business to create a more sustainable and/or equitable world? How do you give back?
We have a fair value chain – everybody’s earning a piece of the value chain. When I talk about sustainability, it’s a broad dimension. So packaging material is one, and taking care of the communities, in our case the farmers, is the second one.
And last but not least, our supply chain. We are already CO2 neutral, we have full green energy. We are doing a lot of projects in order to also reduce our ecological footprint.
What inspires you and your team to work towards business for good?
Everybody in the team is very much aligned with the strategy, with where we’re going: sustainable, high quality, seashell chocolate.
But our customers are also extremely positive about this step. I can even tell you we have acquired new customers thanks to the fact that we are Fairtrade certified. Besides it being my personal ambition, besides it being a company-aligned vision, it helps us in our business. That is not the primary goal, but it’s a consequence of acting well. And the same will continue to happen.
What’s next for Guylian? Where do you see your company in 5 years, for example?
Like I’ve said, we have an amazing, iconic product, and the idea is that we are going to extend it. What does that mean? On one hand, it means extending into different occasion moments for consumers. And secondly, geographical expansion.
For the moment, we have three very clear routes to market: one is retail, in which all over the world we would like to become a relevant player. Second is duty free sales, which is very important for Belgium chocolate in general and specifically also for us. Finally, growing as an export brand. It’s true that in the rest of the world we are the premium Belgium chocolate, whereas in Europe, we are one of many others.
So those are the three channels where we are optimizing or extending ourselves. We have a clear growth ambition, but it’s not “grow just to grow.” We aim to grow in a way that delivers quality and indulgence to our consumers, but in a responsible way.
What is one key takeaway for customers to know about Guylian and your work with Fairtrade?
Two things: first of all, we have a really unique product. There are other products that are as good as ours, but there is no premium Belgian seashell chocolate with praline filling up to this standard.
Secondly, our work is very sustainably produced. We’re working to take care of communities, with Fairtrade chocolate.
Find Guylian’s iconic chocolates online at your local retailer of fine foods or shop online at worldwidechocolate.com.
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