Located in Brookings, South Dakota, USA, the new plant is a response to growing demand for Mini Babybel® cheese in the American market.
In 2013, Mini Babybel®’s sales in the United States advanced 24%, with volume reaching nearly 10,000 metric tons. Today, the U.S. ranks as the brand’s world leading market.
Bel teams from Evron, France, the brand’s historical home, played a leading role in meeting the industrial and technological challenges posed by the plant, which is dedicated entirely to producing Mini Babybel®.
> New production site to support Bel’s U.S. growth
In the presence of Chairman and CEO Antoine Fiévet, the Bel Group will inaugurate its new Mini Babybel® production site today, two years after breaking ground for the plant in Brookings, South Dakota.
“The inauguration of our third plant in the United States is a historic event for the Group,” said Antoine Fiévet, the Bel Group’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “It incarnates our willingness to dare, which is one of our company values. We introduced Mini Babybel® to the United States in 1979. Since then, the brand has established itself as a healthy and fun snack to be eaten on the go — making it particularly well suited to American eating habits. This new production site, which represents the largest industrial expenditure in our company’s history, is fully in line with our growth potential on the American continent.”
In the United States, Bel’s growth is driven by its core brands The Laughing Cow®, Mini Babybel® and Boursin®. “Our volumes have practically tripled over the past five years, with growth averaging 11% per year,” said Frédéric Nalis, Vice President of the Americas and General Manager of Bel Brands USA. “Today, Mini Babybel® represents a third of our volumes. We invested $144 million (€112.6 million) to build the new plant, which has a production capacity of more than 10,000 metric tons per year, or 1.5 million single-serving portions every day. The Brookings plant will enable us to meet growing U.S. demand for Mini Babybel®.”
> Bel industrial knowhow ensured by Franco-American cooperation
The Brookings Mini Babybel® plant began producing the Original and Light versions of the cheese in July 2014. A model of industrial innovation, the production site blends cheese-making knowhow with high technology, building on nearly 40 years of manufacturing expertise developed at the Evron, France production site, the brand’s original home and a center of technological excellence within the Bel Group. “Our expertise in miniaturization and our manufacturing performance is unique,” said Marc Panvier, General Manager of the Evron plant. “Our machines are designed and assembled by Bel engineers. The transfer of technology was vital for ensuring the quality of our products and the competitiveness of our production tools.”
Today, the Brookings site replicates the Evron facility, with certain adaptions to conform to American standards. The Mini Babybel® cheese produced in the United States follows a manufacturing process similar to the one for Mini Babybel® in France, from nearby milk collection to packaging the finished goods. The equipment used to wrap the cheese in its thin wax coating — which makes Mini Babybel® unique — was imported directly from Evron and assembled on site in Brookings.
> A new step for Bel’s international growth strategy
The opening of the Brookings plant marks a new step for Bel’s expansion on the American continent. It also confirms the success of the Group’s international growth strategy, which is centered around five core brands, The Laughing Cow®, Mini Babybel®, Kiri®, Boursin®, and Leerdammer®.
“Bel made the decision to grow internationally early on in its development,” said Antoine Fiévet, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Building the Brookings plant attests to Bel’s organic growth momentum in the United States and around the world (up 5.3% in 2013). We now have 33 locations and 28 production sites worldwide. Our international business model helps balance our growth opportunities and risk, while serving to locate our production facilities closer to consumer markets.”
The success of the business model stems from an in-depth understanding of the markets where Bel is present. That knowledge has notably been the secret to Mini Babybel®’s success in the United States. The brand knows how to adapt to lifestyles and to satisfy demand for healthy snacks in a fast-growing market. In 2013, Mini Babybel® volumes also increased in France, up 7%, and in Europe, up 6%.
Bel in the United Sates
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois
Marketed brands include the three core brands, Mini Babybel®, The Laughing Cow® and Boursin®, as well as local brands, Merkts®, Kaukauna®, Price’s Pimiento®, and Wispride®.
The three U.S. production sites are located in Brookings, South Dakota, Leitchfield, Kentucky, and Little Chute, Wisconsin.
The Mini Babybel® plant in Brookings
More than 15,000 square meters of space, spread over 19 hectares
Production capacity stands at 10,000 metric tons of Mini Babybel® per year, or 1.5 million single-serving Mini Babybel® portions each day.
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