Thanks to the wonderful invitation, I recently went to Food & Hotel Malaysia 2017 (FHM 2017) for Belgian Fries Press Conference, where 5 major Belgian fries exporters were exhibiting as a group for the first time under the Belgian fries banner to widen their networks and increase their share of Malaysia’s growing market for processed potato products.
Agristo, Bart’s Potato Company, Clarebout Potatoes, Ecofrost and Mydibel, representing the five biggest family-owned businesses in the industry in Belgium offering a wide range of potato products and specialties that are exported to over 100 countries would-wide. The companies are all halal-certified.
Their participation in FHM 2017 is part of a five-nation promotion campaign in Southeast Asia coordinated by Belgium’s VLAM (Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board) and Belgapom, the association for the Belgian potato trade and processing industry.
“This is the coming out year for Belgian fries in Southeast Asia. There is an existing market in this region for our products but we see a bigger opportunity to expand exports. This is one of the largest fast growing regions of the world with a rising middle class, rapid urbanisation and the overall population is young. These trends together with Belgium’s high food standards and innovation will continue to drive demand and our industry is ready to reply to this in an original way as our Belgian fries are truly different from those from other destinations,” said Mr Romain Cools, secretary-general of Belgapom.
“Malaysian consumers are increasingly savvy and will look for new food experiences and authentic products like Belgian fries. Malaysia is also a country visited by millions of tourists. Another big factor here is Malaysia’s strategic location in South East Asia for trade with neigbouring countries under the Asean Economic Community single market.”
Belgium is the largest exporter of frozen fries in the world with 90% of its production freighted to the global market. In 2016, Belgian fries exports rose 14.3% to 1.68 million tonnes in 2016 from a year earlier with increasing share going to contries outside EU, with Saudi Arabia followed by Brazil and Chile as the biggest export destinations.
Malaysia ranks 11th among Belgium’s export destinations outside the EU for processed potatoes with fries as the main product. In 2016, Malaysia spent RM306 million on 65,718 tonnes of imported fries, of which 9,689 tonnes were from Belgium, making it the 3rd largest supplier after the United States and the Netherlands.
Belgium fries go back to a long history and have become part of the country’s heritage. The Belgian fry shops you find in every city or village have been recognised as intangible cultural heritage in Belgium and Unesco status is also being sought.