Lactalis bets almost 3 billion on American cheese


Posted on Sep 15, 2020 at 5:48 PMUpdated Sep 15, 2020 6:53 PM

This time, it is in the United States that Lactalis has chosen to grow. World number one in dairy products with a turnover of 20 billion euros, the Laval group (Mayenne) has just concluded an agreement with another agri-food giant, the American Kraft Heinz.

It is taking back its natural cheeses on the American market, with the brands Kraft, Breakstone’s, Knudsen, Polly-O, Athenos, Hoffman’s… which does not include the Philadelphia brand known to all American cheese-cake lovers.

For an amount of 2.7 billion euros (3.2 billion dollars), Lactalis acquires 3 industrial sites in addition to the 8 it already had in the United States. They represent a turnover of 1.8 billion dollars, and thus bring the entire American activity of the Mayenne group to 3.5 billion dollars in a full year. The 2,600 employees across the Atlantic will join 750 Kraft employees.

In the top ten of food

The target market is clearly American, but Lactalis wants to develop the marketing of cheeses acquired internationally as a second step. “Our objective is to develop the internationalization of these brands in many regions around the world in synergy with our international establishments”, said Emmanuel Besnier, president of the group.

The French giant had already taken over cheeses from Kraft in Canada in 2019 under the Cracker Barrel brand. “This transaction is a strategic investment for us. Our activity in North America, Canada and the United States combined, will exceed 5 billion euros, or 20% of our total turnover. This places us in the top 10 of the world’s major agrifood groups. As well as in the top 10 American dairy farmers alongside Dairy Farmers of America ”, specifies Michel Nalet, the spokesperson for the French group.

The American adventure began forty years ago for Lactalis with the opening of a sales office in New York. It accelerated with the acquisition of organic specialist Stonyfield in 2017. The French does not produce liquid milk in the United States, but fresh products and cheeses, including under French brand as President.

The transaction should be finalized in early 2021. It is subject to authorization from the competition authorities.

A non-listed group, controlled by the Besniers, the founding family, this group has continued to grow through external growth. Agile, he proves once again that he can take advantage of turbulent times to take risks and seize opportunities. Conversely, the Kraft-Heinz group, which is heavily indebted and going through a difficult period, is forced to sell assets.

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