A cheerful cow has long been one of French dairy group Bel’s best-known mascots. But now the company has another reason to smile – it’s just been named the winner of this year’s IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award.
The fifth-generation company and maker of The Laughing Cow cheese products was awarded the accolade at the 23rd Summit of the Family Business Network International, which is currently taking place in London.
After almost 150 years in operation, Bel was praised for its continuous family ownership and leadership over five generations, “all within the same product category”.
Fifth-gen Antoine Fievet, who currently heads the company, told CampdenFB: "When Jules Bel founded his business in 1865, he probably never imagined that 140 years and four generations later, his products would be present in more than 120 countries worldwide. Basically, the ingredients that lead to success often happen to be the same, and include the sense of responsibility, patience, innovation, intuition, respect and a good dose of utopia to change the world and leave our children a better world.”
The judges were also impressed with Bel’s ability to make its products relevant to different generations, its family values and commitment to long-term leadership and its “belief in a sustainable business model”. The judges also commended the family – particularly for its “ongoing governance dialogue” and willingness to challenge assumptions and adapt to changing environments “in pursuit of the most efficient balance between family and business forces”.
“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,” said IMD president Dominique Turpin.
Founded in 1865 in the Jura region of France, the business now employs 11,400 people and has revenues of more than €2.5 billion.
As well as The Laughing Cow brand, it also makes Kiri, Mini Babybel, Boursin and Leerdammer products among others.
Past winners of the IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award have included Lego, Hermes, Yazaki Corporation and Odebrecht. Swiss fragrance firm Firmenich was last year’s recipient.