King Philippe swapped his crown for a white paper hat and matching coat on Tuesday in Lebbecke, Belgium. He was paying a visit to Vondelmolen BV which is the largest producer of gingerbread in Belgium and employs 88,000 people. The visit was to mark two significant anniversaries; the company is celebrating 150 years making gingerbread, and it is also the 80th anniversary of the Belgian Food Federation. During his visit, King Philippe was shown all aspects of gingerbread production including special products that have been made to celebrate the 150 years.
Vondelmolen BV is now being run by the fifth generation of the founding family, and in addition to being the largest producer of gingerbread in Belgium is also one of the top five manufacturers in Europe. They produce soft Belgian gingerbread and honey cake according to traditional family recipes which have been passed down through the years and no doubt will continue to be so in the future.
You may think that the small size of Belgium is reflected by its importance within the European food market. In fact, with a mixture of hard work by the Belgian Food Federation and iconic products such as waffles and, of course Belgian chocolate, Belgium ranks fourth in Europe on food exports by value. In August 1993, the then Prince Philippe was made Honourary Chairman of the Belgian Foreign Trade Board. Ten years later he was made Honourary Chairman of the replacement organisation the Foreign Trade Agency, a position he held until he took over as King when his father, King Albert II abdicated on health grounds. The position is now held by his sister, Princess Astrid.
While he was in the post, he worked tirelessly to advance Belgian trade abroad, and during his tenure, he headed more than 60 economic missions throughout the world. Since taking over the role, Princess Astrid has continued the valuable work visiting Angola, India, Russia and South Africa.