How well do you know Belgium? While you're thinking about it, may these words help ring a bell: waffle, beer, and chocolate. How about french fries? Did you know that the French did not invent your favorite comfort food? Allow me to throw in "The Adventures of Tintin" in the equation. How's that for some serious Belgian education?

You see, we actually know a lot about Belgium than we thought we did (or did not). That's what I realized when I attended the media event by Flanders Agricultural Marketing Board (VLAM), together with Belgapom and Flanders Investment and Trade from Belgium held at Sofitel Manila last July 31, 2018. It's just with two magic words: Belgian Fries.

It's the last day of WOFEX Manila 2018 as of this article's publishing, and if you've been, chances are you came across the "Belgian Fries" exhibit wherein five major Belgian fries exporters (Agristo, Bart's Potato Company, Clarebout Potatoes, Ecofrost and Mydibel) showcased their companies as a group.

These five companies represent 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 worldwide. The companies are halal-certified. Their participation in WOFEX Manila is part of a five-nation promotion campaign in Southeast Asia, coordinated by VLAM and Belgapom, the association for the Belgian potato trade and processing industry.

So why promote in the Philippines, you might ask? Aside from being known as a food-lovers' paradise, the Philippines is actually second on the list (right next to Japan) of Asian countries who are big consumers of french fries. Don't you think we deserve to enjoy fries, the original Belgian way? I do.

"Hot on the heels of exhibiting in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, we are pleased to bring Belgian fries to the Philippines this time around, as part of our plan to increase our presence in the Southeast Asian region. There is an existing market in this region for our products, but we see an even bigger opportunity to expand exports and heighten appreciation for our national delicacy. Southeast Asia is one of the largest fast-growing regions of the world, with a rising middle class, rapid urbanisation and an overall young population. These trends, together with Belgium's high food standards and innovation, will continue to drive demand in the region and beyond, and our industry is ready to reply to this in an original way, since our Belgian fries are truly different from those of other countries," said Roman Cools from Belgapom.

"The Philippines is well-known as a food-lover's paradise, and Philippine consumers really know and love good food. Belgian fries are still relatively unknown in the Philippines, so we are excited about this opportunity to share one of the Belgium's most beloved national dishes with the Philippines. Golden yellow and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, Belgian fries, or frites, as we call them, are a true Belgian delicacy that is delicious either as a side served with steak, or as an appetizing snack with a mayonnaise-based sauce!"

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 an increasing share going to countries outside EU.

Belgian fries have a long history and have become part of the country's heritage, with many shops and stands in Belgium serving this delicious savory snack. In fact, the ubiquitous Belgian fry shops that can be found in every city or village have been recognised as part of the cultural landscape in Belgium, with UNESCO status being sought for the dish since 2014.

For more information, visit www.originalfries.eu or www.jamesbint.be.

About VLAM
VLAM (Flanders' Agricultural Marketing Board) is a non-profit organisation promoting the sale, the added value, the consumption and the image of products and services of the Flemish agriculture, horticulture, fishery and agro-alimentary sector in Belgium and abroad. (www.freshfrombelgium.com)

About Belgapom
Belgapom is the recognised association for the Belgian potato trade and processing industry. Its task is to defend the Belgian seed and consumption potato merchants, the prepackers, the exporters, the potato peeling industry and the potato processing industry. (www.belgapom.be)

About Flanders Investment & Trade
Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) promotes international enterprise in Flanders in a sustainable way as a key factor in the social and economic development of our region. FIT does so by supporting the international activities of Flemish companies and by attracting foreign investors to Flanders. (www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com)


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