Bel Brands Builds New Plant in South Dakota

Will add 400 new jobs as company doubles in size in past four years.

Bel Brands USA, headquartered in Chicago, announced plans on Feb. 1 to build a new 170,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Brookings, S.D., to produce its Mini Babybel cheese.

The company will invest $100 million in the plant which will be built in 2016-2017 and bring 200 jobs to the area.

Bel Brands manufactures The Laughing Cow cheese wedges and Mini Babybe, as well as Boursin, Merkts, Kaukauna and other natural and gourmet cheese spreads.

The U.S. subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries Bel currently has two other production facilities in the U.S., located in Leitchfield, Ky., and Little Chute, Wis.

"Bel Brands has experienced significant growth over the past few years, and this new plant is essential to expanding our production capacity to meet the growing demand for our Mini Babybel cheeses," said Lance Chambers, CEO of Bel Brands USA.

Bel Brands USA has more than doubled in size over the past four years. Three of the Companys key brands: Mini Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Boursin have fuelled much of the growth. Mini Babybel, which represents close to one-third of Bel Brands U.S. sales, has almost tripled in size with consistent 25% growth. To date, sales of Mini Babybel in the U.S. total 17 million pounds. To meet the current demand, the company now imports more than 50% of the Mini Babybel business. Bels goal is to attain a sales volume of 22 million pounds or 10,000 tons (US) by next year.

Bel Brands began the search process for its third manufacturing facility in early 2011. The states under consideration included Iowa, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota. The Company also considered expanding its production facility in Leitchfield, Kentucky, where it currently produces The Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel cheese. Bel Brands has made multi-million dollar investments in its Leitchfield plant to increase production capacity over the past four years and has grown from nearly 300 employees in 2007 to more than 420 employees in 2011.

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