Brussels, Belgium- With intra-national cultural tensions growing throughout the European Union, businesses are racing to “pick sides”, ensuring that their brands identify with regional economic winners. In Belgium, that means aligning with consumers of either the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, or the post-industrial, French-speaking Wallonia. Mas Guapo Foods, an American spice company, has recently cast its lot with a groundswell of business interests that see the economic future of this divided nation resting with the more affluent Flemings.
Sandor Van Hoorick, associate director of the European Strategies Division of Mas Guapo Foods, believes that Belgium is the canary in the coalmine for future segmentation of European nations over coming years, as citizens seek to protect their cultural rather than national identities. In Belgium, the tension between Walloons and Flemings is uniquely important because of the tug of war over Brussels, an economic and cultural crown jewel of Europe. Mas Guapo is a major stakeholder in this battle as its signature product, Sazon Mas Guapo, looks to grow exponentially in the region over coming years. “Our European growth strategy is focused on “Frites” cultures, as we seek to position ourselves as the condiment of the 21st century for fried potatoes all across Europe. We believe that socio-cultural alignments with brands will create strong market segmentation and that products will live or die by the company they keep”, says Van Hoorick.
For Mas Guapo Foods, that now includes prominent Flemish political figures. A recent edition of Het Laatste Nieuws features a photo of Bart De Wever, the outspoken leader of the New Flemish Alliance Party, dining at a popular Brussels restaurant. The portly De Wever, who has called for an independent Flanders, is pictured with an artificial mustache, enjoying a traditional lunch of Mussels and Fries that has been conspicuously seasoned with Sazon Mas Guapo. While Mas Guapo certainly arranged this photo op, the firm has been cautious not to be branded as the spice blend of right-wing separatists. However measured this alliance may be, the subtext of the photo is not ambiguous; Mas Guapo is clearly and actively positioning itself to be “the new spice blend of the new Belgium”, and just the latest international firm to pull up stakes from the beleaguered south.