Our History

A family business with more than 150 years of history, as well as a major international player in the food industry, the Bel Group offers portioned products made from milk, fruit and vegetables, with the goal of providing healthier and more sustainable food for all. The Group has strong local ties and relies on constantly evolving industrial facilities that are increasingly innovative and responsible. As part of a push toward continuous improvement involving its entire ecosystem, Bel wants to address major societal and environmental issues with a new food model that has a positive impact on all generations.

A Jura family business

In 1865, Jules Bel set up his Comté cheese ripening and trade business in the Jura region of France. When he died in 1904, his son Léon Bel took over the business. In the aftermath of the first world war, the burgeoning cheese industry took off, and Léon Bel foresaw the potential of processed cheese that was tasty, inexpensive, and easy to transport and preserve. In 1922, he took the plunge and founded Fromageries Bel. 

Accessibility, industrialization and nutrition

In 1921, Léon Bel registered the Laughing Cow® trademark – a totally new product in France, with its original recipe, melt-in-the-mouth taste, packaging in individual portions, triangular shape, and wrapping. With its red cow logo commissioned from the famous animal illustrator Benjamin Rabier, Léon Bel also created new marketing innovations and established early on a unique link between the young brand and its consumers. 

TheLaughing Cow® began production and distribution in 1924, when Léon Bel installed his first melting mixers and portioning equipment in the factory in Lons-le-Saunier. Two years later, he had a new, ultra-modern factory built in Lons. 

New brands and international expansion

In 1929, the first international subsidiary was created, building the first international factories in the United Kingdom and Belgium.  

In 1933, the Group launched the Babybel® brand. 

In 1937, Robert Fievet, son-in-law of Léon Bel, was appointed CEO. He became Chairman in 1941. 

From then on, nothing could stop Bel’s growth: initially active in Western Europe, the Group ventured into the United States and Morocco in the 1970s, then later into Syria, Japan and China.  

In 1960, the APERICUBE® brand was launched in France, followed by the launch of KIRI® a few years later in 1966, and finally the iconic Mini Babybel® in its red wax shell in 1977. 

To keep pace with changing consumer trends, Bel is constantly evolving its products – an approach that combines innovation and continuous improvement to create brands that are increasingly responsible and attentive to the daily needs of families around the world. Babybel®, for instance, has established itself as an alternative to sweet snacks, while Pik et Croq® has diversified its snack offerings.  

In 2001, Antoine Fiévet took over management of the Group and initiated a renewed push for CSR innovations, while restructuring the company around a new identity: “For All. For Good.” This resulted in more diversified offerings in the fruit and vegetable sectors. 

In parallel with this bold international development, Bel also focused on a selective external growth strategy, with the acquisition of Boursin® in 2007.  

Bel continues to take on new industrial and commercial challenges around the world, such as the construction of the very first Laughing Cow® plant in Asia in 2011, and the construction of a Babybel® plant in the United States in 2013. 

In 2015, the Group reached a turning point and announced that it was expanding its business beyond cheese products to become a major player in healthy snacking.  

In 2016, the Group followed through on these plans with the acquisition of the MOM Group, owner of the Materne® Pom’Potes®, GoGo squeeZ®, and Mont Blanc® brands, thereby diversifying its offerings in the fruit segment.  

Also in 2020, the Bel Group acquired All In Foods (a specialist in plant-based alternatives), which owned the Nature & Moi brand and launched a sixth core brand in April 2021: Nurishh®, a 100% plant-based product.  

These two recent acquisitions – in addition to plant-based versions of the Group’s core brands (Boursin and Babybel) – rounded out the Group’s offerings and diversified it into three complementary segments: dairy, fruit and vegetables. 

In 2022, the Group strengthened its international development with two acquisitions: the first in the form of a majority stake in the Chinese company Shandong Junjun Cheese Co., Ltd, and the second in the form of a joint venture in India, where the Group acquired a 49% stake in Britannia Dairy Private Limited (BDPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Britannia Limited 

Innovative, forward-looking partnerships

2022 was also marked by a new phase in the Group’s innovation strategy, as it entered into research partnerships on alternative proteins. This was notably the case with the French start-up Standing Ovation, the American start-up Superbrewed Food, and the American start-up Perfect Day, with whom it would take a decisive new step toward developing tomorrow’s foods, offering Nurishh Incredible Dairy: Animal-Free, Cream Cheese Spread Alternatives on the US market.