Have you drunk a tasty gin recently? Its flavour was very likely produced in Limburg. Lecocq Flavours
sends out its flavourings to beverage and food producers around the world. "We have a range with 12,000 liquid
flavourings. New ones are added every week," says CEO Olivier Lecocq.
Want to make a food product with fresh citrus notes or with the aroma of marshmallows, chilli, cardamom, guimauve, ginger or cactus? Then Lecocq Flavours distils and blends natural raw materials into the flavouring of your choice. "Any flavour is possible," says Olivier Lecocq, the CEO of Lecocq Flavours, during the tour of the highly fragrant flavours paradise. "We have a range with 12,000 liquid flavours. New ones are added every week. They are used in gin, beers, non-alcoholic drinks like flavoured water, ice cream, pet food and so on. We supply to an endless list of sectors. Everyone tastes one of our flavours every day."
As a member of the fourth generation, Olivier Lecocq owns 100 per cent of the shares of the Limburg-based growth company, which Achilles Lecocq founded in 1920. "My great-grandfather worked in the gin industry in Hasselt," says Olivier Lecocq. "At some point he started up an aroma company, with the gin and liqueur industry as his main customer. Later, his sons Paul senior and Maurice joined the business and the company experienced golden years. From the 1990s, it even went international. At that time, I graduated and joined the company. Before that, I spent many weekends and holidays there. I became the jack-of-all-trades and gained a lot of lab experience. I was never asked if I wanted to succeed my father. That was a matter of course."
When Olivier Lecocq took over the helm from his father in 2006, the flavour specialist went full steam ahead with innovation, backed by the tried-and-tested family recipe and rich history. In 2020, his partner and experienced marketer Eveline Sticker came on board full-time. The working methods and expertise of the two are complementary. The couple nurtures grand plans.
"There are no major obstacles in our path to conquer the world," business manager Eveline Sticker says confidently. "We only lack time. Like any self-employed person, we are never finished. We are in a huge growth phase. We are now twice as big as three years ago. That brings growing pains." The other challenges are finding good people, a bigger business location and expanding into new sectors.
You notice the growth in recent years behind the scenes. Infusion and mixing boilers have been getting bigger and bigger. The raw material and stock rooms, such as the herb loft with more than 150 herbs and plants from different regions, are bursting at the seams. Lecocq Flavours is looking for premises double the current 1,400 square metres. "We already work with kettles of up to 2,000 litres," says Olivier Lecocq. "We are currently looking at installing a fixed 5,000-litre boiler."
Strong in Western Africa
Lots of large beverage and food producers, chocolate houses, ice cream manufacturers, pastry shops, dairies, as well as pharmaceutical companies and pet food producers are clients of Lecocq Flavours. Marketing agencies looking to launch novelties also know their way around. Lecocq Flavours and most customers work with confidentiality clauses. Names of customers are not released.
Remarkably, almost half of sales are made in West Africa. "We have been going strong there since the 1970s. With the thousands of litres we export every year, they make a lot of finished liquor there. If someone in West Africa drinks a cognac or a gin from a local liquor producer, it is actually a Limburg drink," says Olivier Lecocq. "Furthermore, we can export to any region."
The team at Lecocq Flavours proves every day that flavours and colours can be discussed. "Our research and development department is the heart of the company. It works with our customers to fine-tune the flavours," explains Eveline Sticker. "In doing so, we have no limits. With competitors, for example, you can choose from three flavourings of a particular flavour. We work very flexibly until the customer's wish is achieved."
90 per cent of production is custom-made. This is done on the basis of sharply formulated customer wishes. But as passionate entrepreneurs, Olivier Lecocq and Eveline Sticker want to do more. They are increasingly developing their own flavours. In doing so, they respond to trends, such as non-alcoholic drinks. Organic, natural flavours are also in demand, as are flavours that are halal or kosher.
The developed recipes disappear into a digital vault. In the evening, everything is put away. No recipe remains on a mixing kettle. Paper order forms are even destroyed in the shredder. In this way, the company protects its valuable creations.