La Vie est Belle is a Belgian company that produces organic vegetarian and vegan burgers. They are located in Oostkamp, which is just outside of Bruges.
A couple of months ago, there was a press conference and reception for the launch of the RizRiz burger, a new product of La Vie est Belle. The RizRiz burger was launched to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company. Unfortunately we could not attend this event, but we were invited to come take a look inside La Vie est Belle in Oostkamp. An invitation which we gladly accepted, as it is not every day one gets a chance to look behind the curtains!
La Vie est Belle started as a small family bussiness run from the home kitchen, making rice balls and vegetarian burgers for friends and family. The founders, had experimented with vegetarian cooking and organic farming in Africa, more or less out of necesssity. The company steadily grew, together with the rise and expansion of organic shops in Belgium, and fuelled by the demand for vegetarian products from supermarkets, like Delhaize. Their products are also used in larger catering facilities, like school kitchens. La Vie est Belle now employs about 25 people, and wants to keep growing gradually and sustainably.
One of the distinctive features of the products of La Vie est Belle, is that – unlike many other manufacturers of vegetarian and vegan products – they hardly use seitan or tofu in their products. Organic vegetables, grains, nuts and herbs are the main ingredients (most of them locally grown), resulting in products such as the kinowaburger, hazelnutburger, risottoburger, falafels and tartino bread spread.
We were welcomed by sales manager Ronald, and following a short introduction of the company, we put on a hair cap and apron and washed our hands, to comform with sanitairy requirements and started the tour.
We walked through several seperate rooms of the company. We saw the administration offices and met some of the staff, and also the ‘experiment and test’ kitchen, where new recipes are developped and tasted! And the storage rooms with supplies of fresh vegetables, containers with herb mixtures, and freshly picked lettuce and big boxes with chickpeas and cut bell peppers. The herb mixtures smelled amazing! All vegetables are washed and cut in the company itself and a great deal of the process is still done manually: weighing the ingredients, making the herb mixtures and washing and cutting the vegetables, and even doing the dishes afterwards!
Following, we entered the halls where the burgers and spreads are actually made and processed.
We also met some of the people making and packing the burgers. The company employs several people who have a hard time finding a job on the ‘regular’ market: people with a disability, learning difficulties, or immigrants. They also organise free in house language lessons to learn Dutch.
Resulting in the finished product, like these Kinowa burgers:
Following the guided tour of the company, we sat down with Ronald and he gave us some more information, and some burgers to taste. But we already know the products from La Vie est Belle quite well (we especially like the deep purple falafels and the tartino spread!).
These are the Kinowa burger (with red beets and locally grown quinoa from Zulte in Flanders!) and the new RizRiz burger:
The new RizRiz burger, launched for the 25th anniversary of the company is made out of local vegetables, and fair trade and organic rice from Indonesia. The launch of a ‘rice’ burger also symbolically refers to the early days of La Vie est Belle, when the founders made rice balls in their home kitchen. The RizRiz burger is developped to especially appeal to children and youngsters, and can easily be used in school catering.
Most of the products of La Vie est Belle are vegan, but some still contain dairy and eggs. We expressed our hope that La Vie est Belle would turn totally vegan in the future, but that was said not to be economically viable at this time. Which we do find a pity! But most of the new products that have been developped recently are vegan, so they are moving in that direction.
La Vie est Belle, location
Company visit, August 2017