Mission: Astra Sweets inspires and innovates with a unique & wide range of sweets. This allows us to accommodate consumer wishes and expectations through high-quality products with authentic flavours, appearances and taste sensations. Challenging and stimulating the product category on a daily basis creates growth for our partners.
Vision: to build a leading international company passionate about sweets with the drive to grow and develop the confectionery market, through our longstanding expertise (historical, traditional), innovation and empowered talent.
Values: five values characterise the Astra Sweets organisation.
1. Entrepreneurship – we are proactive and seek out opportunities for innovation with our staff
2. No-nonsense – we work efficiently thanks to our open, direct communication style
3. Respect – we respect one another, our products and the planet
4. Ownership – we don’t shirk our responsibilities and look after the organisation’s interests
5. Passion – we are enthusiastic, proud and continuously strive for top quality.
We are proud of our rich history and are happy to guide you through our highlights and milestones. Today’s Astra Sweets started as a traditional, spiced cake factory opened in 1924 by the family Van Deun. Four years later, the foundations were laid for the production of confectionery. The decades after the Second World War were uneventful.
Things accelerated markedly in 1987 when the Groep Vanherpe took over the company, renaming it Astra Sweets. Construction immediately started on a new factory, that was fully operational two years later. Years of consistent growth followed: production capacity doubled and our employees started working in shifts to accommodate the growth.
In 1992, Astra Sweets took over Belgica, changing the name to Belgica TOP (TOP stands for Turnhoutse Ouwel Productie). This takeover had great impact. In 1900, this company had developed a product that made it easy to ingest pharmaceutical powders. Small, round, flat starch capsules filled with powder. Sound familiar? This is the predecessor of today’s UFO that was launched in 1950.
The takeover created a new product group at Astra Sweets: UFO’s. This was a great success: in 2012 Astra Sweets UFO’s were given recognition as a Flemish regional product. The sour-filled edible paper is still made according to the original recipe! Various countries, even various regions have their own names for our UFO’s such as disco disk, host and Ouwel.
Take over Dutch confectionery factories
In 1999, the Groep Vanherpe took an important step by taking over two confectionery factories from Cadbury Schweppes in the Netherlands: de Faam and Frisia. At the time, de Faam produced winegums and liquorice in Breda while Frisia manufactured marshmallows in Harlingen.
De Faam’s history goes back to 1838 when pastry chef, jam maker and shop owner Henricus Bont developed confectioneries in Breda. His son Petrus Antonius scaled things up and founded de Faam. Under his administration, the company developed into a major confectionery factory. In 1964 it was taken over by the English Bassett Food. When de Faam turned 150 in 1988, it took over Frisia in Harlingen. The latter dated back to 1899 and manufactured marshmallows under the Frisia brand. In 1989, Cadbury Schweppes took over Bassett, and de Faam and Frisia became owned by this multinational. The name was changed to Cadbury Faam, though the brands Faam and Frisia were retained. Particularly the Frisia brand continues to play a major role even today, after the takeover by Astra Sweets. De Faam’s manufacturing location in Breda moved to Turnhout in January 2014.
End of an era
August 2000 marked the end of an era. The last activities of the spiced cake production were sold and from then on Astra Sweets focuses completely on candy products.
With the acquisition of van Wandelen Sweets in 2020, Astra Sweets added the unique Rocket Balls to their product range. These round hard candies come in different flavors with a sour or salmiak powder in the middle that offers a nice surprise for consumers.