- The Bel Group plans to extend its portfolio beyond cheese and fruit products by developing hybrid items integrating dairy and plant-based raw materials. The French firm said in a release it would offer recipes as early as 2020 that combine dairy with vegetables or leguminous plants in order to meet consumer expectations and nutritional needs in healthy snacks.
- Bel also said it will remove artificial flavors and colors in its products by 2021, achieve 100% recyclable or biodegradable packaging by 2025 from 81% today, and achieve carbon-neutral status by 2025. The company plans to continue fostering sustainable dairy farming by issuing guidelines by 2025 for its partner dairy farmers to promote GMO-free feed, pasture grazing and new farming business models.
- The company rolled out a new corporate motto — "For All. For Good." — which CEO Antoine Fiévet said in the release symbolizes Bel Group's commitment to a sustainable business model. Fiévet, the great-grandson of the company's founder, said that behind the motto are 12,600 employees in more than 30 countries "who are united in their efforts to build a different company."
The Bel Group is calling this a "major strategic turn" for the company, which is perhaps best known in the U.S. for The Laughing Cow and Babybel cheese products. The new innovation strategy is focused on making its brands more inclusive and anchoring them "in the reality of the food challenges faced by the countries where Bel operates," according to the release.
To respond to this reality and related sustainability concerns, it makes sense for the legacy manufacturer to combine real dairy sources with vegetables or legumes and roll out hybrid cheeses and other products. These blended items are increasingly turning up in the meat segment and now in the dairy space, so Bel is likely trying to stay current with today's trends and keep its brands top of mind for global consumers.
Other dairy producers entering the blended segment include the Minnesota-based farmer cooperative Live Real Farms, which recently started making 50/50 blends of dairy milk and plant-based beverages from almonds and oats. Live Real Farms also tapped into other trends by touting the lower sugar and calorie content of their products.
More well-established, however, are the plant-based dairy alternative manufacturers such as Parmela Creamery, Daiya Foods, Miyoko's Creamery, Treeline Treenut, Follow Your Heart, Teese and Tofutti, which only turn out vegan products containing no animal-sourced materials.
For a 8,000-farm cooperative such as Live Real Farms, and now the global Bel Group, taking the blended route could be a meaningful contributor to their bottom lines if they are able to attract new customers and keep more of them returning. It might also lead to higher retail prices and profits than for dairy only.
Blended products also might appeal to the growing number of consumers who buy both real dairy and plant-based alternatives. And for those familiar with Bel's cheese brands but who want to experiment with plant-based, hybrid products might be a handy way to try them out.
In addition to its product offerings, Bel Group could attract more consumers by promoting its efforts to remove artificial flavors and colors and shift toward 100% recyclable or biodegradable packaging — increasingly common areas being targeted by food companies of all sizes in order to more closely align themselves with the interests of shoppers.