Saint Geours de Maremne
Telephone: (33) 05 58 56 73 00
Fax: (33) 05 58 57 30 41
Web site: http://www.labeyrie.fr
Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Alfesca
Sales: EUR 345 million ($414 million) (2004)
NAIC: 311612 Meat Processed From Carcasses; 311711 Seafood Canning
Labeyrie SAS is Europe's leading producer of luxury grade "festive foods," including foie gras, smoked salmon, seafood spreads, blini (a sort of pancake originally from Russia and typically served with seafood spreads), caviar, and related specialties.
Based in France's Landes region—the heart of the country's foie gras industry—Labeyrie clearly dominants its primary categories in France and elsewhere, maintaining the number one position in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, and Luxembourg, and holds the number two or three in a number of other European markets. In France, the company's market share for foie gras tops 24 percent, while its share of the smoked salmon market stands at 26 percent. Labeyrie's operations also include those of Blini, the leading producer of blinis, as well as seafood spreads and other spreads, in France; Vendy, the Spanish smoked salmon leader; and Farne of Scotland. Altogether, the company operates six production facilities in France, Scotland, and Spain.
Seafood, and especially smoked salmon, represents nearly 55 percent of Labeyrie's sales, which reached EUR 345 million in 2004. Foie gras products generate 36 percent of the company's sales, while blinis and spreads add 10 percent to the group's revenue. Labeyrie itself was acquired by Iceland's Alfesca (formerly SIF) in late 2004 for EUR 332 million, and has become the spearhead of that company's European expansion strategy. Following the acqusition, Labeyrie has also been integrating the operations of Alfesca's SIF France subsidiary. Xavier Gavare is the company's CEO.
SUPERMARKET CHANNEL TO SUCCESS 1946 TO 2000
Labeyrie was founded by Robert Labeyrie in Saint Geours de Maremne, not far from Biarritz in France's Landes region along the Atlantic coast. Launched in 1946, Labeyrie grew into one of the region's most prominent producers of foie gras, and other so-called "festive foods"—in France, foie gras was traditionally consumed during the Christmas holiday season. The company specialized in the production of foie gras made from duck liver, as per the regional specialty. A major factor in Labeyrie's rise to market leadership was its early entry into the country's supermarket channels. Into the early 1960s, foie gras and related products tended to be sold in markets and in the country's small grocer shops. Yet the introduction of American-style self-service supermarkets in the 1950s had also stimulated demand for a wider range of pre-packaged and prepared foods. In 1963, Labeyrie launched its first sales to the supermarket sector.
This early appearance on the France's supermarket shelves quickly made Labeyrie one of the most recognized foie gras brands among French consumers. Over the next decades, Labeyrie expanded to include another important festive foods category, smoked salmon, which, like foie gras, was a staple food for the country's holiday and festive meals.
Labeyrie's emergence as the dominant player in the French festive foods market came in the mid-1980s when the company was purchased by Européenne de Gastronomie, part of SI Finance, a subsidiary of French financial giant Suez Bank. Under Européenne de Gastronomie, Labeyrie was turned more firmly toward the mass retail sector, which by then had already succeeded in dominating the French grocery market. The new financial backing enabled Labeyrie to invest in modernizing and expanding its production. In 1989, for example, the company built a new state-of-the art salmon smoking facility. This was followed by a full-scale foie gras production facility, including slaughterhouse, in 1992.
At the same time, Labeyrie had launched its first television-based advertising campaign in 1987, becoming the first foie gras producer to do so. The company's slogan—"Labeyrie à tous ceux qui savent vivre" (Labeyrie for all those who know how to live)—proved highly successful and confirmed Labeyrie's position as market leader.
By 1990, Labeyrie had firmly targeted the mass retail sector as its core distribution channel. In order to meet the volumes necessary to supply its large-scale clients, the company took steps to assure its own supply chain. As part of that effort, the group reached a supply agreement with Palmitou, an independent cooperative organization of duck farmers, including both breeders and force-feeders. By 1996, Labeyrie had acquired a majority stake in Palmitou, completing its control by 1999.
Similarly, Labeyrie sought to ensure its supply of salmon, and in 1991, the company established a dedicated purchasing subsidiary, Labeyrie Norge, which worked with salmon breeder-suppliers in Norway. Back in France, the company also entered into an agreement with agricultural cooperative Lur Berri during that decade, in order to supply duck livers for the company's foie gras production.
PUBLIC OFFERING IN 1999
In the late 19990s, Labeyrie began seeking out new markets. In 1997, for example, the company acquired Salmona, which, despite its name, specialized in the production of smoked trout. The acquisition enabled the group to extend its production into the smoked trout category, which, although only one-tenth the size of the salmon market, was not as closely linked with the holiday season. This not only enabled Labeyrie to spread out its sales more evenly throughout the year, but also to make more efficient use of its salmon preparation and smoking facilities. By the end of the decade, the company had largely substituted its own brand for the Salmona brand.
- Robert Labeyrie begins the production of foie gras.
- Labeyrie makes his first sales to the supermarket sector.
- Labeyrie's company is acquired by Européenne de Gastronomie, a part of Bank Suez.
- Labeyrie's first television advertising campaign is launched.
- The company builds new salmon processing and smoking facilities.
- Labeyrie Norge is established in Norway; the company enters a supply agreement with Palmitou.
- A new foie gras processing plant, including slaughterhouse, is built.
- Labeyrie acquires a majority stake in Palmitou.
- The company acquires Salmona, a producer of smoked trout.
- Labeyrie makes a public stock offering on Paris Stock Exchange and acquires full control of Palmitou.
- The company acquires Vendy, the leading brand of smoked salmon in Spain.
- Labeyrie acquires Blini, the French market leader in blini and seafood spreads.
Labeyrie also entered new food categories, including the production of high-end dried hams, such as Parma hams and Bayonne ham varieties. The company launched the new luxury grade Grand Cru free-range ham at the end of the decade. Labeyrie also extended its range of duck-based products into the next decade. In the meantime, Labeyrie's foie gras production benefited from the creation of a new "Indication Geographique Protegee" appellation, establishing criteria for Landes foie gras. This enabled the company to further outdistance its closest competitors, which produced their foie gras outside of the Landes region.
As it turned toward the new century, Labeyrie prepared for still more growth, and accordingly the company went public in 1999, listing on the London stock exchange. In that year, also, Labeyrie launched an e-commerce capable web site, featuring gift packs and other items for year 2000 celebrations.
The company's public offering permitted it to go on a spending spree in the first years of the new century. In 2000, for example, the company moved into Spain, acquiring that country's market leader Vensy in January of that year. In 2001, Labeyrie entered a new category, that of the production of blini and seafood spreads and other spreads, such as tarmaslata and hummous, acquiring the Prince Egor brand. Although number two behind segment leader Blini, the new subsidiary grew strongly under Labeyrie. In particular, Labeyrie was able to increase the Prince Egor brand's penetration of the mass retail sector. As the clear market leader in its foie gras and salmon categories, Labeyrie had successfully established itself as a "must-have" food item for supermarket shelves, placing the company in a position of relative power vis-à-vis the large scale distribution groups.
In 2001, Labeyrie responded to the merger of two its chief rivals—Montfort and Bizac—with the acquisition of supply partner Lur Berri's Pierre Guéraçague brand of foie gras and delicatessen meats, as well as that company's slaughtering and processing facilities. By the end of 2001, Labeyrie's sales had topped EUR 200 million. The company was not only the market leader in France, it also enjoyed strong international sales, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of total revenues.
ALFESCA FLAGSHIP IN 2006
In 2002, Labeyrie found a new financial partner when Européenne de Gastronomie sold its 67 percent stake in the company to Financière de Kiel, a France-based investment subsidiary of Industri Kapital. Under new management, led by Xavier Gavare, Labeyrie returned to its expansion drive. In 2003, the company acquired Blini, the market leader in the blini and seafood spreads market. Established in 1980, Blini had grown to claim more than 35 percent of its market, through sales of its own Blini brand and through its supply to private label brands.
Following the Blini acquisition, Labeyrie turned to boost its share of the European salmon market. In 2004, the company turned to Scotland, where it bought Farne of Scotland, a leading breeder and producer of salmon products. That company had been founded in 1982, with just six employees; by 1984, Farne had already launched exports, becoming a major name in the European smoked salmon market.
Labeyrie found itself under new ownership by the end of that year, when Industri Kapital sold its stake in the company to Iceland-based SIF. That company had been engaged in a change of strategy, exiting its U.S. holdings (Iceland Seafood Corporation) in order to refocus itself on the European market. The purchase of Labeyrie helped transformed SIF from a largely seafoods-oriented company to a pan-European luxury foods powerhouse. Labeyrie quickly became the flagship for the "new" SIF—which changed its name to Alfesca in 2006.
Through 2005 and into 2006, Labeyrie focused on integrating its parent company's SIF France operations, which included the Delpierre brand of prepared and marinated seafood. As the jewel in the crown of its new parent company, Labeyrie looked forward to further expansion throughout the European luxury foods market and beyond.
Blini SAS; Farne Salmon and Trout Ltd; Financiére de Kiel SAS; Gueradis SARL; Labeyrie Norge AS; Palmitou SAS; Pierre Guéracague SAS; SIF France SAS; Vensy Espana S.A.; Vensy Portugal LTDA.
Floc'h et Marchand; Doux S.A.; Cooperative des Eleveurs de la Region de Lamballe; ALH Loudeac; Societe Vitreenne d'Abattage Jean Roze; Fleury Michon S.A.; Compagnie Generale de Conserve; Socopa; Madrange S.A; SODEBO; William Saurin; Compagnie Saupiquet S.A.; SOVIBA S.A.; Arca.
"French Foie Gras Producer, Labeyrie, Acquired by Investment Fund," European Report, April 6, 2002, p. 600.
"Icelandic Seafood Group Plans to Buy French Salmon and Foie Gras Producer," Europe Agri, October 28, 2004, p. 502.
"Labeyrie has New Owners," Eurofood, March 28, 2002.
"Labeyrie," Le Livre des Grandes Marques, September 21, 2005, p. 2.
"Premier CyberNoël pour Labeyrie," Le Journal du Net, November 9, 1999.
"SIF Changes Strategy, in Final Talks to Acquire Labeyrie Group," Nordic Business Report, October 26, 2004.
"Suez pourrai se retirer du capital de Labeyrie," Capital.fr, March 15, 2002.