INDIA – French multinational cheesemaker, Bel Group, has entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with biscuit and dairy products maker Britannia Industries and Britannia Dairy Private Limited (BDPL) to make accessible nutritious, and affordable cheese in India and some other markets.

Under the signed agreement, Bel SA will acquire a 49% stake in Britannia’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Britannia Dairy Private Limited (BDPL), for Rs 262 crore and then infuse an additional Rs 215 crore in the joint venture. The remaining 51 percent shall continue to be held by Britannia.

The companies said the entity will be renamed Britannia Bel Foods Private Limited and the cheese products sold under the JV will be produced from the new, state-of-the-art facility at Ranjangaon, Maharashtra. The products will be co-branded using the trademarks Britannia and The Laughing Cow.

Abhishek Sinha, chief business officer of the dairy business at Britannia, has been appointed as CEO of the joint venture.

Berry said cheese is an under-penetrated category and that the partnership will help expand the nascent but fast-growing cheese category.

The domestic cheese market, valued at INR 56.7 Billion in 2021, is projected to reach INR 211.5 Billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 24.3% during 2022-2027, according to IMARC Group.

Cécile Béliot, Bel Group’s CEO, added: “This strategic partnership with Britannia in India is a new step for Bel Group’s development in Asia, in line with our mission to deliver healthier and more responsible food for all. Thanks to this joint venture, we will accelerate in India after four years of presence in ‘start-up mode which had enabled us to confirm the relevance and the potential of our product offers.”

 “We are proud to partner with Britannia. They have an emblematic brand in India and a powerful distribution system. By combining their expertise with our iconic brand, The Laughing Cow, and our know-how and knowledge of cheese products, this joint venture is well positioned to offer to all Indian consumers, delicious, nutritious and accessible cheese products, and become a leader in the fast-growing Indian cheese market.”

The cheese market in India has been bifurcated into retail and institutional sectors, wherein the institutional sector exhibits a clear dominance in the market.

Varun Berry, the executive vice-chairman and managing director of Britannia Industries, commented that Britannia’s partnership with Bel Group will enable consumers to enjoy international quality cheese products that will now be made in India.

He noted that the JV will help the milk farmers of Maharashtra gain consistent and greater market access through the yield-optimized milk collection initiative, which has grown significantly over the last three years.

Recently, Bel Group partnered with start-up Standing Ovation to incorporate casein milk protein into its alternative cheese offerings.

Subsequently, Bel acquired an equity stake in Standing Ovation. This enabled Bel and Standing Ovation’s scientific teams to team up at Bel’s R&D center in Vendôme, France, and at Standing Ovation’s facility in Paris, on the application of Standing Ovation’s technology to select Bel products.

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