IMD business school and Lombard Odier recognize French family business Bel for combining tradition and innovation
Bel Group awarded the 17th annual IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award
I am particularly impressed with Bel’s unyielding passion for its products and brands, and its willingness and skill at addressing the needs of frontier markets.
The aim of the Award is to highlight the important economic contribution of family businesses to the global economy.
5 October 2012 ‒ Bel, a world leader in branded cheeses, was awarded the 17th annual IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award at the 23rd Summit of the Family Business Network International (FBN-I) in London.
Awarded by IMD, a top-ranked global business school, and by Lombard Odier & Cie, one of the main firms of private bankers in Europe, this prize is regarded by many as the most prestigious for successful family businesses. It recognizes the way in which such firms unite family interests with those of the business and combine tradition and innovation while demonstrating a clear commitment to their local community. The award also serves as a platform for family businesses to exchange best practices and analyze the economic backdrop. Previous winners include world-class companies such as LEGO, S.C. Johnson, Hermès, Barilla, Yazaki Corporation, Merck AG, Odebrecht, and Firmenich.
This year’s winner is Bel, a French family business. For almost 150 years the company has combined traditional local recipes with modern marketing and production technologies to become one of the world leaders in branded cheeses. It has annual sales in excess of EUR 2.5 bn, more than 11,400 employees and a presence in over 120 countries.
Bel’s products are manufactured in 27 plants, located on five continents, and reach nearly 400 mn consumers. The company has also been a pioneer entering frontier markets around the world. It has educated consumers and delivered nutritional and cheerful products in the most remote parts of the globe, putting dairy products on everyone’s menu.
Bel has patiently assembled an exceptional portfolio of leading cheese brands. These include five global leaders (The Laughing Cow®, Kiri®, Mini Babybel®, Boursin® and Leerdammer®), as well as eight other international brands and 17 national ones. Its leading brand figure, The Laughing Cow®, has enthused generations of families. Throughout its history, Bel has constantly evolved its products and brands to match the aspirations and trends of the times.
Bel particularly impressed the Jury of the IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award with the following characteristics:
- continuous family ownership and leadership over 150 years and five generations, all within the same product category;
- the ability to reinvent the product over many generations and keep it current and exciting, combining creative advertising and extensive adaptations to local tastes and preferences with leading-edge technological innovation;
- deep-rooted family values and commitment to the business to ensure long-term growth and leadership internationally;
- a belief in a sustainable business model integrated throughout their operations, ensuring a sense of individual and collective responsibility that drives long-term success;
- an ongoing governance dialogue within the family, constantly challenging their assumptions to adapt to changing environments in pursuit of the most efficient balance between family and business forces.
Mr. Thierry Lombard, Managing Partner of Lombard Odier & Cie, a seventh generation family firm of private bankers, and Chairman of the Family Business Network International said: “The aim of the Award is to highlight the important economic contribution of family businesses to the global economy. This year’s winner is in this perspective a good example of an outstanding family-owned enterprise model based on economic entrepreneurship and social responsibilities. Through its capacity to constantly reinvent itself, Bel must be seen as a long-term inspiration for its peers and a shining embodiment of the Family Business Network International's pledge to sustain not only our current generation, but those to follow.”
IMD President Dominique Turpin said: “As a world pioneer in management education for family businesses, IMD founded this award back in 1996 and warmly congratulates Bel on its well-deserved success this year. I am particularly impressed with Bel’s unyielding passion for its products and brands, and its willingness and skill at addressing the needs of frontier markets. This combination of tradition and innovation is the hallmark of a committed family business, one that has taken a traditional product to new heights, staying true to simple but powerful family values.”
The family business is the oldest and most widespread business model throughout the world. A major source of revenue, jobs and tax contributions, family businesses are key players in the economic system and often serve as models for long-term growth, profitability, stability and survival through periods of crisis.
The award trophy, which is fashioned out of crystal, bears the shape of a tree – a symbol of family businesses. It was generously donated by the Scheufele family from Chopard and was crafted in that firm’s workshops in Geneva – a further example of a successful family business in the global arena.
About the Winner
The origins of Bel Group
Jules Bel (1842–1904) founded the family business in1865, inthe Jura region of France, near the Swiss border as a refiner. His son Léon Bel (1878–1957, 2nd gen.) developed a melted soft cheese by blending comté and emmental with other cheese varieties. The result was a soft, easy-to-mold cheese which, since it had been cooked, also offered a long shelf life outside the cold chain. But when Léon Bel launched his first manufactured product in 1921, he also pioneered new marketing approaches and new ways of consuming cheese, which revolutionized the industry. Not only was it the first branded cheese product registered in the French market but since 1924 it was also sold in innovative small triangular portions and marketed under an evocative brand: La vache qui rit®, or The Laughing Cow®. Robert Fiévet (3rd gen.) guided Bel's national and international growth from 1937 until 1996. Today led by Antoine Fiévet (5th gen.), Bel has maintained the values that have turned the family-operated company into a world leader in branded cheeses. These values include an entrepreneurial spirit, a sustainable business model, and a willingness to empower its 11,400 employees.
About the Award
IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award
The IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award was created in 1996. The aim of the award, which provides a unique platform for sharing best practices and analyzing the economic backdrop, is to promote family businesses by highlighting the exceptionally high standards they are capable of and the many forms they may take.
About Family Businesses
Family businesses are the oldest and most widespread business model throughout the world. A major source of revenue, employment and tax contributions, they form the backbone of our economic system.
With their long-term perspective and stakeholder orientation, family-owned businesses represent capitalism with a human face – combining social responsibility with a commitment to economic success. Particularly in hard times they benefit from their competitive advantages. Recent studies show that excellent family-owned companies around the globe outperform public companies in terms of long-term growth, profitability, and stability.