For four days, on the first press trip in the Group’s history, Emmanuel Besnier, flanked by his General Managers of the Zones and Business Units, explained in detail Lactalis’ strategy on the American continent, opened the doors of several production sites in Canada and the USA, organised meetings with the agricultural sector and visits to shops… This unique event for a very secretive group and a hitherto very discreet boss aimed to put the spotlight on the continent, which is at the heart of the global dairy giant’s strategy. Because although France is still number one for Lactalis in terms of turnover (€4.5bn in 2021), the USA and Canada are making progress year by year. Within two years, four acquisition projects have been carried out in both territories.
And both countries are growing in importance for the group. Canada, which was still the Group’s second most important country in 2021 with sales of €1.6bn, will be overtaken next year by the USA, whose sales are expected to reach €2.9bn. The North America region has grown from €1.8bn in sales in 1989 to €4bnin 2021, and sales volume is expected to grow to €5bn by 2022 thanks to recent acquisitions.
The strategy of acquisitions is paying off. “The acquisition of Kraft Heinz Natural Cheese in Canada and the USA has made us the market leader in natural cheese,” says a delighted Gilles Mézière, General Manager of Lactalis Americas. “In the US, the biggest cheese markets are cheddar and mozzarella as culinary ingredients. Each of them accounts for almost 1 billion euros in sales,” explains Emmanuel Besnier. To increase its share of the pie, Lactalis has decided to build local brands such as P’tit Québec in Canada or Cracker Barrel in the USA through acquisitions, while pushing international brands such as Galbani or Président.
While Lactalis’ main overseas business is cheese, the company is also active in ultra-fresh. With the acquisition of Ultima Foods in Canada last year, Lactalis is now number two in this market. And in the US, where Lactalis acquired Stonyfield from Danone in 2017, it has already captured 6.6% of the segment – still a long way from Danone (32.2%), Chobani (21.2%) or Yoplait (16.2%).
Lactalis’ most important acquisitions in North America in recent years
Acquisition of Ultima Foods in 2021 with the ultra-fresh brands Iögo, Olympic and Iögo Nanö. 2 factories and €221m in sales.
Acquisition of Kraft Natural Cheese in 2019 with the cheese brands P’tit Québec, Cracker Barrel, Amooza! and Kraft. 1 factory. €413m turnover.
Acquisition of Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy in 2019 (yoghurt and dairy) with Green Mountain Creamery and Liebe brands.
Acquisition of Kraft Natural Cheese in 2021 with Kraft, Cracker Barrel and Breakstone’s brands. 3 factories. €1.3bnturnover.