The origins of Bel Group
Jules Bel (1842–1904) founded the family business in 1865, in the Jura region of France, near the Swiss border as a refiner. His son Léon Bel (1878–1957, 2nd gen.) developed a melted soft cheese by blending comté and emmental with other cheese varieties. The result was a soft, easy-to-mold cheese which, since it had been cooked, also offered a long shelf life outside the cold chain. But when Léon Bel launched his first manufactured product in 1921, he also pioneered new marketing approaches and new ways of consuming cheese, which revolutionized the industry. Not only was it the first branded cheese product registered in the French market but since 1924 it was also sold in innovative small triangular portions and marketed under an evocative brand: La vache qui rit®, or The Laughing Cow®. Robert Fiévet (3rd gen.) guided Bel’s national and international growth from 1937 until 1996. Today led by Antoine Fiévet (5th gen.), Bel has maintained the values that have turned the family-operated company into a world leader in branded cheeses. These values include an entrepreneurial spirit, a sustainable business model, and a willingness to empower its 11,400 employees.