A Groupe Casino spokesperson told this publication that ELS had been facing financial difficulties, leading to the takeover in September 2015.
After paying the company’s creditors, ELS and Casino decided to scale up production by purchasing equipment and improving infrastructure.
ELS currently produces 350 tonnes of cheese per year, 200 tonnes of which is Fourme AOP de Montbrison, a traditional PDO cheese.
“It is the specialty of the plant, 40% of the production of Fourme AOP de Montbrison is produced by ELS,” the spokesperson said.
ELS produces other cheeses, another PDO, Fourme AOP d'Ambert, and the historical cheese Fourme de Sauvain – Sauvain is the city in which ELS is located.
ELS received the PDO status for Fourme d'Ambert in March 2016.
“The ambition is to develop those products too, but first to develop Fourme AOP de Montbrison,” the spokesperson added.
Increased distribution in France
ELS cheeses are sold in all stores of the region, not only Casino. The new goal, is to introduce the cheeses beyond the borders of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to the rest of France.
“Thanks to our national presence, Casino can help this be effective,” the spokesperson said.
Renovations and expansion
Renovations took place from January to June 2016, and included changes to cold air generation, new flooring, manufacturing tanks, air conditioning, and homogenizers.
“With the renovation it's possible to double production.”
At present, there are no plans to add to the existing 18 jobs, although as production increases, that may change, the spokesperson added.
Eric Soubeyrand, the site director, remained as head of the company after the takeover.
Bottled mountain milk
Prior to the company’s purchase, in 2013, Casino and ELS established a partnership to collect 1.7m liters of bottled milk, which it called Lait des Eleveurs des Monts du Forez, a product that is exclusive to Casino stores.
The milk comes from local farms in the region, which is 900m above sea level.
In July 2015, a seven-year contract was drawn up with the dairy farmers who supply the 4.9m liters of milk for the production of PDO cheeses and the bottled ‘mountain milk.’
“It's a milk direct from farmers, a way to promote and give value to the milk and it's a way to establish a long-term partnership with farmers to give them visibility, stability and sustainability in their production,” the spokesperson said.