Entreprise Besnier founded in Laval
André Besnier starts making camembert under the ‘Le Petit Lavallois’ brand name.
His Son, Michel Besnier
Takes over the reins of the company, which then had fifty staff. He continues the diversification initiated by his father by making butter and crème fraîche and marketing fluid milk.
Launch of the President brand
The Président brand is launched in 1968. It will become the world’s biggest multicategory dairy brand.
First uht milk in France
A visionary, Michel Besnier launches the very first milk packaged in UHT Tetra Pak cartons.
The company first expands overseas, in The U.S.
Brie is a very popular cheese in the U.S., accounting for the bulk of overseas sales. Brie Lafayette and Joan of Arc are created for the American market. Their names emphasize their French origins.
Lactalis the sole owner of Lactel
Lactalis becomes the sole owner of Lactel, which belonged to the company Genvrain, with its famous slogan “L’essentiel est dans Lactel”.
Bridel and Société Des Caves De Roquefort join the group
Lactalis also continues its international expansion (Ukraine, Poland, Egypt, Italy).
Entreprise Besnier is renamed The Lactalis Group
In the same year, Michel Besnier opens Lactopôle, the first museum dedicated to milk, in Laval.
Following his father’s death, Emmanuel Besnier moves to Group Chairman and accelerates its international growth.
Acquisition of Galbani
2006 is marked by the start of the joint venture with Nestlé and the acquisition of Galbani in Italy, the world leader in Italian cheeses.
Top of dairy product world rankings
Lactalis rises to the top of dairy product world rankings after acquiring a majority stake in Parmalat, the Italian fluid milk company.
Presence in South America & Asia
First presence in South America & Asia with the acquisition of Balkis in 2013 and the dairy division of BRF Brazil in 2014. In India, we acquire Thirumala Milk Products.
Ten acquisitions in seven years
In 2018, the Group celebrates ten acquisitions in seven years, including Weber in Germany, Siggi’s in the U.S. and Greenland in Egypt. The Lactalis Group also takes over Nestlé’s chilled dairy business line in Malaysia, becoming the world’s second biggest fresh food producer.
Three structural acquisitions
Following the acquisition of Aspen, Lactalis SANULAC brings together all its child, medical and sports nutrition business lines. The acquisition of Kraft’s cheddar business line in Canada consolidates Lactalis’s position in cheesemaking. Integration of the dairy cooperative in Brazil makes the Group the country’s leader in dairy products.
Lactel moves into Uzbekistan
As part of Lactalis’s takeover of Nestlé in Uzbekistan, Lait Nestlé Sutim ranges are renamed Nestlé Lactel Sutim.
Meeting its ambitions, the Group achieves revenue of 20 M in 2020 and continues its local expansion internationally, particularly Kraft Heinz’s natural cheese business line in the U.S.
Nine decades, one unchanged recipe: passion and innovation
First milk collections and first camembert
On 19 October 1933, André Besnier made his first seventeen camembert under the ‘Le Petit Lavallois’ brand name, prepared with 35 litres of milk collected in and around Laval in Mayenne.
The first page of the company’s story is written and André Besnier’s one-man business is launched.
Very soon, André Besnier hired staff to join him in his cheesemaking venture. The legendary label featuring medieval Laval rapidly became synonymous with quality.
More and more Mayenne milk producers joined André Besnier
The company was booming, achieving the milestone of 10,000 litres of milk collected in 1948.
The company was renamed “SARL Société Laitière de Laval A. Besnier & Cie” and grew by bringing together ever more farmers. That success was made possible by the proactive and inventive sales policy of André Besnier, now assisted by 25 staff.
A passion for milk, high quality standards, sharp business acumen and the ability to attract the best meant that Maison Besnier camembert appealed to ever more consumers.
Start of the diversification
As the dairy sector became increasingly competitive, André Besnier expanded his offering by marketing milk, butter and crème fraîche.
Like the camembert that drove Maison Besnier’s success, then sold under the ‘Le Voyageur’ brand name, all the other products were subject to the same quality standards in pursuit of a simple goal: perfection.
An ambitious and strategic thinker, André Besnier was one of the first to launch milk in one-litre glass bottles, under the ‘SSL Le Bon Lait’ brand name. In 1955, his death marked the company’s transfer to his son, Michel. Being just as passionate as his father, Michel Besnier took full advantage of the family’s entrepreneurial spirit and doubled the annual revenue in only two years.
Launch of président, the brand that will revolutionize french consumer behaviour
Amidst growing consumer demand and the arrival of new distribution models, the 1960s were a pivotal time for the company.
In a buoyant economic climate and led by Michel Besnier, the company outlined what would become and drive its economic model. Manufacturing expertise, quality, innovation and a focus on the dairy processing business line enabled dynamic external growth.
Several dairies in West France joined Entreprise Besnier, extending the dairy collection area and allowing for larger volumes of milk, making it possible to expand the product range to meet demand from the newly launched supermarkets.
A visionary, Michel Besnier understood the importance of the retail revolution. He created the first milk packaged in Tetra Pak cartons, ‘Lait 2000’, under the Président brand name, which would become the Group’s flagship and radically shape French consumer behaviour.
First Besnier cheeses exported to U.S.
Brie appealed to Americans whilst camembert reigned in France.
In 1972, being convinced of the potential of the Président brand and its camembert, the company built a modern creamery solely for its production in the Normandy countryside. Boasting the latest innovations, the Domfront creamery is still legendary today and France’s largest soft cheese creamery.
Acquisitions in the U.S. and new markets developed in France
A constant growth momentum enabled the Group to consolidate its positions across the Pond and expand significantly in France.
The 1980s saw an acceleration in its development with external growth operations. In 1981, the company moved into the U.S. by acquiring premises in Belmont (Wisconsin) then building another site in California six years later.
Staying true to his origins, Michel Besnier did not neglect the development of his business lines in France. In the early 1980s, he acquired the Claudel-Roustang and Atlalait creameries, which then represented nearly half of the company and opened the door to the goat’s cheese segment (amongst others).
In 1984 and 1985, investment in the manufacturing facilities increased with the construction of a yogurt manufacturing site in Laval, then a creamery dedicated to emmental in Charchigné, northern Mayenne.
The 1980s also saw the defining acquisition of Lactel, which quickly became the company’s flagship brand for fluid milk.
To conquer Europe, Enterprise Besnier is renamed The Lactalis Group
Operations in Ukraine, Poland, Egypt and Italy expanded the product portfolio.
The acquisition of Locatelli, the third bestselling mozzarella brand, made it possible to introduce new dairy products. The purchases of our longstanding rival Bridel and Société des Caves de Roquefort also expanded the range of local and international products.
To facilitate its international growth on all five continents, Entreprise Besnier took the name of Lactalis Group in 1999. Staying true to his roots, Michel Besnier opened the Cité du Lait on the site of the historic creamery in Laval to showcase milk production and trace the history of the dairy industry.
Family transition and sustained growth
Michel Besnier’s sudden death in 2000 led his son Emmanuel to take over the company’s reins.
2008 was a major year for the Lactalis Group. Emmanuel Besnier continued its development, particularly with the acquisition of the flagship Galbani in Italy.
In 2007, the Croatian dairy product leader Dukat joined the Group alongside Celia for infant formula.
Lactalis rose to the top of global dairy product rankings.
After Italy, Spain became a major country for the Lactalis Group in 2010, with the successive acquisition of three Iberian dairy players.
In 2011, Lactalis became the biggest global dairy group after acquiring a majority stake in the company Parmalat, the Italian leader of fluid milk.
The acquisition of Itambé in Brazil would enable the Group to become a leader in the Brazilian cheese market. Lactalis remained above all a cheesemaker and a pivotal player in the sector.
Lactalis has made major acquisitions in North America, particularly Kraft Heinz’s natural cheese business lines in the U.S. and the yogurt activity of the Canadian cooperative Agropur.
Our Italian cheeseboard has expanded with Castelli and numerous PDO. The Group has gained a foothold in another country with the acquisition of the Leerdammer brand in the Netherlands.