A behind the scenes look at the Bel saga
There’s no better way to grasp Bel’s personality than to delve into its history. It’s the story of cheese-maker from the Jura region of France who becomes a major international player, while maintaining its penchant for audacity and good-naturedness.


In 1865, Jules Bel set up his comté cheese ripening and trading business in France’s Jura region. His son, Léon Bel, took over the business following the death of Jules Bel in 1904. After World War I, the nascent cheese-making industry began to take off, and Léon Bel pursued the tasty, affordable, easy-to-carry and easy-to-keep potential of processed cheese. In 1922, he embarked on a manufacturing adventure and founded Fromageries Bel.


In 1921, Léon Bel trademarked The Laughing Cow®, a product new to France at the time owing to its original recipe, soft texture, individual portion presentation, triangular format and packaging.

By commissioning Benjamin Rabier, the famous animal illustrator, to draft the red cow, Léon Bel proved to be an advertising innovator as well. He thus began building the unique bond between his new brand and consumers.


The commercial and manufacturing launch of The Laughing Cow® got under way in 1924, when Léon Bel installed the first processed cheese mills and portion machines at the Lons-le-Saunier plant. Two years later, Bel built a new, ultra-modern plant in Lons. In 1937, Robert Fiévet, Léon Bel’s son-in-law, was named CEO. Appointed company chairman in 1941, he guided the Bel’s national and international growth until 1996.
Today, the company’s values of daring, caring and commitment remain at the heart of Bel’s strategy. The spirit that has made Bel a success has endured, and it continues to accommodate the Group’s growth. Still managed by the descendants of Léon Bel and Robert Fiévet, Bel continues to take on new manufacturing and commercial challenges, such as the construction of the first The Laughing Cow® production unit in Asia in 2011, and the Mini Babybel® plant in the US in 2013.

Pioneer of communication

Bel ran humoristic and offbeat ad campaigns at a time when few risks were taken to promote a product. Taking advantage of TV, radio and movie theaters, the brand was open to new media and new formats from the get-go. Little by little, its sympathetic cow became a true advertising icon. Even today, Apericube®‘s appetizing experience, Mini Babybel®‘s mini-revolution with its round, red wax-coated container, and the success of The Laughing Cow® on Facebook illustrate the innovative technical, marketing and advertising mix that is indistinguishable from the Group’s products and brands.


Processed cheese has the homogenization and conservation qualities needed for an everyday and international food. Léon Bel began sending his products abroad in 1929, setting up his first foreign-based plants in the UK and Belgium. Since then, nothing has stopped the advance of Bel’s products.
Initially present in Western Europe, the Group moved into the US and Moroccan markets in the early 1970’s, and later tapped into Syria, Japan and China.
Along with its often audacious international expansion, Bel has pursued a selective external growth strategy, acquiring Leerdammer® in 2002 and Boursin® in 2007. Uncontrolled growth has never been a part of the equation. The idea has always been to grow while respecting Bel’s values and spirit.

Today, Bel ranks third worldwide in branded cheeses.

The success continues 150 years after the Bel family adventure began. Present in over 130 countries, backed by 12,000 employees and bringing smile to over 400 million consumers, the Bel Group is a world leader in branded cheeses. The Group strategy aims at doubling size by 2025.

The story has only just begun… guided by the Bel’s mission of sharing smiles through unique experience of dairy goodness!