Italian candy maker Ferrero is investing heavily in the Kinder Surprise and Schoko-Bons factory in Arlon. “Our capacity is multiplying. This factory is one of our most expensive, but Belgium has many assets. We are the largest employer in the province of Luxembourg.
You may not know it, but the kinder surprise that your child or yourself eats does not come from Germany or Italy, but rather from Belgium. More specifically from Arlon, where since 1989 there is the fourth largest factory of the Italian candy giant Ferrero.
For us, Kinder Surprise is no surprise. We know exactly which game is in each egg.
Today the factory can produce twice as much as it was three years ago. This is because the Italians invested 150 million euros in modernization and expansion. Next year they will invest another 25 million euros. “This plant was very important years ago, and it is even more important now,” says plant manager Marco Arvigo.
Not only does Ferrero Kinder Surprise make in Arlon, but its large version also makes Maxi, Schoko-Bons eggs, and Raffaello chocolate. 98 percent of what Ferrero manufactures in Arlon is exported to 50 countries around the world. “Our main markets are Germany, France and the UK,” says Arvigo. “But we also export to Australia, China and the rest of Asia.”
So the factory around is very large: 47,000 square meters or seven football fields. 900 people work there. Peak times until 1100. “We are remarkably the largest employer in the province of Luxembourg.”
When we walk into the factory, we notice that about half of the machines are brand new. Stainless steel and plastic are pure. Suddenly we came across a production line with peeling paint. “Here we make Raffaello,” Arvigo says. We will be completely renovating and expanding this section next year. You can see how the old iron contrasts with the stainless steel of the new Kinder Surprise line next door.
We are not allowed to take pictures because Ferrero does not want to share any company secrets. The company hired a photographer themselves, and we only received the pictures after the approval of the main office in Italy.
Arvigo guides us to the beginning of the surprise egg line to give us an answer to a question many ask: How does this game get into the chocolate egg? We see how a half-mould machine fills an egg to the brim with milk chocolate. Immediately after that, the mold is emptied, so that there is only chocolate on the edge. When it hardens, a layer of white chocolate is added in the same way.
After that, the machine puts in it a toy. Then the halves of the eggs are glued with chocolate, after which the Kinder Surprise ends up in the refrigerator to completely freeze. “We can put 72 different toys in the eggs,” Arvigo says. For us, Kinder Surprise is no surprise. We know exactly what game each egg contains, because one package cannot contain two identical gadgets.
Kinder Surprises are made in different parts of the world. In Europe also in Italy, Poland and Russia. But all the surprise eggs in Belgian stores come from here. We are the only manufacturer in the world that makes the large Kinder Surprise Maxi. Production moved from Poland to Belgium in 2017. We had to build completely new lines for it.
washing machine drum
A little later, Arvigo stopped at another product made exclusively in Belgium: Schoko-Bons. In the giant spinning drum of a washing machine, we don’t see dirty laundry, but chocolate eggs. In this machine, choco buns are rotated for a few hours and sprinkled with sugar to give them a slightly crunchy crust. Here too we have revamped the old fonts and added new ones.
Production also grew strongly due to the expansion of the factory. “Up 26 percent in the past three years,” Arvigo says. This was mainly due to the large Kinder Surprise launch and the growth of Schoko-Bons, of which Ferrero achieved a 13.7 percent increase. The classic Kinder Surprise is down 8 percent. But production fluctuates up and down every year. It is stable in the long term.
It is not clear that Ferrero is investing tens of millions. “Arlon is one of our most expensive plants,” says Arvigo. “Wage costs are high. This is mainly due to taxes, because the net wages of our employees are at the level of those in other countries.
To keep the plant competitive, Ferrero is investing in automation. We don’t see a lot of people standing on the new lines. Occasionally someone to supervise. Packing in large boxes is still done by hand. “But we’ll soon be working on automating these as well,” Arvigo says. “Automation is essential in a country like Belgium.”
However, employment has grown over the past three years. “We have hired 40 engineers, 30 technicians, and 70 workers,” Arvigo says. “We notice that our employees are becoming increasingly technical and specialized.”
For Ferrero, the plant in Belgium remains an asset. Your country is a logistical crossroads in Europe. And Luxembourg – where we are based – close. It is a melting pot of European nationalities. We can easily test new products there. Schoko-Bons was a local experiment that became an international success. We can make everything a lot cheaper in Poland, but we’re looking at the long-term.