Flavouring manufacturer Lecocq Flavours celebrates its 100th anniversary. Four generations with good taste.
Lecocq Flavours: Customised flavours, co-creation, and flexibility
For four generations, Lecocq Flavours has been developing a wide range of liquid flavourings and distillates. Everything began in 1921 on the Lazarijstraat in Hasselt, when Achille Lecocq founded his flavouring company in the jenever town of Hasselt. Lecocq Flavours moved to Zonhoven in 2005. Now, a century later, the company wants to expand further. In 2021, Lecocq Flavours will be a Limburg growth company with taste in a flavour market that experiencing more evolution than ever.
Pop quiz time. “Which Limburg company is the talk of the town?” The chances of knowing the answer are rather slim. But you taste Lecocq Flavours’ flavourings every day. That’s what makes the Zonhoven company unique. By the way, there are only a handful of flavouring manufacturers in Flanders. So Lecocq Flavours adds flavour to a lot of drinks, food, and sweets.
Manager Olivier Lecocq agrees. “If you eat vanilla ice cream in Belgium, for example, the flavourings come from here. Our roots are in the alcoholic sector. Many chocolate manufacturers are very familiar here and so on. Our customers are mainly business-related. They don’t know us but they taste our flavourings every day. (laughs) We are a transitional link in the chain. So we rarely sell a finished product. We do supply the flavourings with which the customer then finalises the flavour. We do supply well-known brands, but not directly to consumers,” says Olivier Lecocq at the branch in the De Waerde industrial zone in Zonhoven.
Business partner Eveline Sticker explains, “Our R&D department is the heart of the company. That’s where the flavourings are perfected, where there is development, where there is quality control. We create the recipes together with the customer. We’re strongly committed to that kind of co-creation… We create a unique flavouring for each customer. Customisation is what sets us apart. We aren’t just going to invent something. The idea always comes from the customer. But we do brainstorm with them. Our flexibility is an asset here. We also stand for quality on a human scale. We are a rather modest player in Belgium (in the top 15, ed.) and even smaller on the international market. But we’re playing in the major leagues of our segment (liquid flavouring). We are at the forefront here.”
Olivier Lecocq continues, “How we work? The customer asks for a flavour and then we start. We adjust the flavour, we mix the flavourings we buy. This includes things like vanilla flavour, or strawberry flavour and so on. But, of course, we work with hundreds of flavourings. We buy simple flavouring substances, which can be natural or artificial flavourings. We then mix these to create a new flavour. That’s practically high-level research. How do you get the best mixture from which a new flavour emerges? When they talk about innovation, we’re innovating here every day. We make distillates from herbs and plants as well. We’re seeing customers asking for more and more customisation. A good example is the drinks sector. How many flavours are there these days? Flavoured waters, you name it… How many beers and gins have been added? Then there are the non-alcoholic drinks… The flavours of the ice creams are also more varied, think Marshmallow ice cream or chilli-flavoured ice cream. That used to be unthinkable. And we respond to that perfectly.”
A large part of the liquid flavourings is exported abroad, even to Africa. “Almost half of our turnover comes from West Africa, to countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia… We’ve been exporting a lot of flavourings for the beverage industry there since the 1970s. These are really significant quantities. Thousands of litres leave here every year. They make a lot of ‘finished drinks’ there using the flavourings we make. If someone in West Africa drinks a cognac or gin from a local drinks producer, it’s actually a Limburg drink.”
Eveline Sticker adds, “Our goal now with the 100th anniversary is to increase our brand awareness and to continue growing, of course. We are urgently looking for additional staff for this purpose.”
Indeed; our premises are becoming too small,” Olivier continues. “So we’re going to expand. This is necessary if we want to consolidate and strengthen our market position. Everything started 100 years ago in Hasselt, and we moved to Zonhoven in 2005. Returning to Hasselt one day is a dream.”
Lecocq Flavours : Customised flavours, co-creation, and flexibility
Did you know?
Colibri Soft Drinks: Everyone over 40 remembers Colibri, the flavouring of which was made at Lecocq Flavours. “I often rode along in the van to Colibri with my grandfather to drop off the flavourings. The company no longer exists, but Colibri was a household name. But it had much more sugar in it than now. Flavours have become less sugary; consumers have also become more critical. And the controls are rightly very strict.”
Pet food: Did you know that many fishing baits are made at Lecocq? “Many fishermen use bait with a flavouring made here. Sometimes I see a picture in the newspaper of a big catch. Then when they smile, I think, that’s thanks to Lecocq. (laughs)”
Kosher: Nearly 10 percent of the liquid flavourings at Lecocq are kosher. “We’re noticing an increasing demand for this as well. These flavourings are certified and we’re also audited regularly by a rabbi. Every year, a rabbi comes to inspect everything, after which, we receive a kosher certificate, an ORT certificate under rabbinical supervision. Some rabbis are quite in depth; for example, there are rabbis who are very orthodox.”
Halal, Vegan, and Organic
Halal, vegan, and organic flavourings are also on the rise at Lecocq Flavours. “The share of these flavourings is definitely rising. We have to keep up with customer demand, which is increasing growing in terms of organic flavourings, as well as halal and vegan.”
Philip De Hollogne