The Best of Ekurhuleni Readers’ Choice Awards are back and we are celebrating previous winners and have evolved beyond Covid.
We spoke to the master chocolatier Kees Beyers.
The pandemic has ushered us into a different way of life. How has the business evolved over the past year?
We have seen a shift in sales. Owing to the reduced number of international flights we lost our airline business and most of our duty-free business. We also lost our hospitality business for a period, but it has since bounced back to around 50% of pre-pandemic sales. On the other hand, chocolate sales at retail level have risen nicely, helping us to recover what we lost in other areas. Chocolate is an affordable luxury, and it has a feel-good factor about it. In these trying times it is not surprising that we all need a little pick-me up and turn to chocolate for that.
All in moderation though! And as I tell my children, “Chocolate is a treat and not a meal replacement.”
How do you feel about winning three categories in the 2019 Best of Ekurhuleni Awards? Share you’re experience.
The Beyers Factory Shop is becoming more and more well known in the Kempton Park area, and we are delighted to have been chosen by the readers in three categories.
How long has your business been around and how did it start?
Kees Beyers Chocolates was founded in 1987. It all started when Kees, who was 18 at the time, travelled to South Africa to visit his sister who had immigrated. His intention was to work for a few months, travel around the country and return to Belgium, but this was not to be. Kees fell in love with South Africa as quickly as he fell in love with chocolate.
Within two days of being in South Africa, Kees was employed by Marriot Chain (now Air Chefs), and after three months he decided to make this his permanent home. During his 18 months at Marriot Chain, he became aware of the huge lack of quality confectionery in the country and, coming from Belgium where fine chocolate is the norm, he wanted to give South Africans luxury, affordable chocolates they could eat every day. And so, in 1987 at the age of just 20, Kees Beyers Chocolates was founded.
Tell us about yourself, do you have a favourite chocolate?
From a very young age I knew that one day I would own a chocolate factory. I started selling sweet treats to friends and family, and at the age of 12 began my studies at Piva School in Antwerp. I qualified as a pastry chef at Ter Groene Poorte in Bruges when I was 17.
As a master chocolatier, my love and passion for chocolate has never ceased, and I still find great joy in expanding my knowledge in the art of chocolate and confectionery.
My favourite chocolate changes as tastes evolve.
What do the current times mean for your business and your customers?
For us it’s about ensuring we don’t need to retrench anyone. We all need to get through this dark period together. Hopefully it will be behind us soon.
What can you do to ensure the health and safety of your workforce?
Safety is of the utmost importance at Beyers, and we have been proactive right from the start of the pandemic. If anyone experiences a symptom/symptoms they are sent home. If symptoms persist for two days, they are sent for a Covid test. We have also put the following measures in place:
• We screen all staff daily on arrival.
• We have set up sanitising stations at entrances and on the factory floor.
• We stagger lunch and tea times in order to limit large groups.
• We continuously train factory staff on Covid and the required safety measures.
• We have a contingency plan in place for positive cases.
How do you and your team stay motivated?
We eat chocolate! It’s difficult not to stay motivated when your job centres around creating beautiful and delicious products.
Why do you think Ekurhuleni is a great area to do business?
Ekurhuleni is centrally located; however, in the past two years we’ve been let down by poor electricity supply, poor water supply and an increasing number of potholes. These issues need to be addressed in order for business owners to thrive.
What is your message to consumers in support of your business and the importance of shopping local?
Now more than ever we need to build up the South African economy by supporting local. South Africans need to be more patriotic when it comes to products produced by South Africans for South Africans. Your support will make a difference.
Has Kees Beyers introduced any new products in the past year, tell us about them?
We have launched three new products that we are particularly proud of:
• Chocolate-coated mini-mallow bites. These are soft and fluffy mallow clouds coated in creamy milk chocolate.
• Sugar-dusted mini-mallow bites. These are luscious strawberry-flavoured mallow clouds dusted with sugar. They melt in your mouth!
• Snack-me bar, which is an all-in-one muesli bar coated in smooth milk chocolate.
What are the Best of Ekurhuleni Readers’ Choice Awards?
The Best of Ekurhuleni Reader’s Choice Awards were established to inspire the residents of Ekurhuleni to celebrate the best of the best and inspire growth and prosperity in local business and organizations.