“Prices for chicory have been low for years, but fortunately, they’ve been slightly better in the past two months. We only sell miniature chicory, although we also offered regular chicory in the past,” says Bart Bruyninckx of Bruyninckx Chiconnettes. “Demand for mini-chicory increases towards Christmas, and we expect the peak just before and during Christmas. We sell most of our chicory on the domestic market, primarily to retail. The majority is sold at auction and is supplied to wholesalers and catering. Belgium is a country with one of the highest chicory consumptions in the world. However, the product is mostly consumed by the older generations. That’s why we regularly organise tours for schools and other interested parties to make people aware of eating chicory again.”
For some years now, Bart has also had friseline, which won a Tavola award, in their assortment. “The market for friseline is still a bit difficult. Retail wants new products, but when we have new products they’re either unwilling to try it or they have no room for it,” Bart continues. “The new harvest of friseline will arrive in December, and will primarily be shipped to catering via wholesalers. We’ve worked with it for three years now, and we get a lot of positive responses.” Besides friseline, Bart also offers cooked chicory, which does well and is stable year-round. This product is mostly sold to schools and hospitals. “We also once did a pilot with mini radicchio, but the lovely red colour unfortunately disappears when cooking. The product is therefore only interesting when eaten raw or as a decoration.”
“In the late 1960s, my father started the company with regular chicory. The chicory consumption has changed considerably over the years. In the past, chicory was only prepared in two different ways, while more preparations are now possible,” Bart says. “We started growing, processing and selling mini-chicory in 2000. Belgium currently has two growers of mini-chicory. It is and will remain a niche market.” During the peak days, Bruyninckx Chiconnettes handles about 100,000 plants per day, and several millions on an annual basis. During the peak periods, about 60 people are employed, while between 20 and 25 people are employed by the company during the summer.