Bel Group Côte d'Ivoire plant inaugurated

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bel has opened a facility in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to produce The Laughing Cow cheese. Photo: iStock - PeterHermesFurian
Bel has opened a facility in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to produce The Laughing Cow cheese. Photo: iStock - PeterHermesFurian

Related tags: Processed cheese

The Bel plant in Abidjan that makes The Laughing Cow cheese has been officially opened by Bel Group chairman and CEO Antoine Fiévet.

Ivorian and French officials also visited the site, which marks the French-based international cheese company's first industrial installation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The purpose of the plant, located in Abidjan's Yopougon industrial zone, is to supply Ivorian consumers with a product that is created close to its market.

Bel said the site represents the first step in developing the brand in Côte d'Ivoire. All locally produced portions of The Laughing Cow will be marketed in Ivorian territory.

Miniaturized plant

Bel said that the Abidjan Laughing Cow plant is a first for the company, as over the space of three years, Bel teams miniaturized the production of processed cheese portions.

Bel's engineering teams designed the plant, then assembled and tested it at the company's research and innovation center in Vendôme, France. It was then shipped to the Côte d'Ivoire in 14 containers.

Two months after the containers arrived in the country, the plant was fully assembled, and production started in December 2015.

Huber Mayet, general manager of manufacturing and technical operations, research and innovation at Bel, said, "Today, we produce 100,000 portions of cheese every day with the same food quality and safety standards found at all Bel Group plants.

“It's a technological feat, but it's also the result of a successful skills transfer between the French teams and the 12 employees of the Côte d'Ivoire plant, which is now operating fully autonomously."

Bel products throughout Africa

Present on the African continent for over 50 years, and with more than two billion single-serving portions sold in Africa in 2015, The Laughing Cow is one of the products Bel sells in 44 African countries.

The African market, where Bel employs more than 3,500 people, is supplied by three other production sites in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

Fiévet said, "It's a new milestone for us on the African continent, which has historically been a growth market for Bel. Our strategy calls for producing our products as close to our consumers as possible, as soon as that's possible.

“With this new site, we can supply the Côte d'Ivoire market and keep a manufacturing lead-time. That's the rationale for this project, which would not have been possible without the support of Ivorian officials and our local partners."

New jobs created

The new Côte d'Ivoire plant, which cost $3.4m (€3m) to build, can produce 20 million cheese portions per year.

While the 4,200-sqm facility currently employs 12 people, this is expected to rise to 20 in 2016.

Related topics: Manufacturers, Cheese, Emerging Markets

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