Gilles Gérard (Luxlait): From White to Green
Created in 1894, Luxlait invested 200 million euros in 2009 to modernize its production and continues to invest. Fourteen years later, the company continues to innovate to remain competitive on the international market. Take a guided tour.
Can you describe Luxlait in a few words?
It all started in 1894 with thousands of Luxembourg producers who chose to unite around an agricultural association. 129 years later and after merging with the Laduno dairy in Ingeldorf and the Celula dairy in Bettembourg in 1978, we have 650 employees (350 employees and 300 farmers). The number of farmers is constantly decreasing, but the milk production is increasing. Indeed, those who continue to work produce more in order to try to be more efficient which is crucial. In total, at LUXLAIT, 22,000 cows produce more than 170 million liters of milk per year. We carry out approximately 1,500 analyses per day to ensure the quality of our products. Moreover, thanks to these control systems, we have never had any health problems.
Our economic model is based on three pillars: Luxembourg, which represents 35% of the sale of finished products, exports with 65% and industrial products such as concentrated milk for example. We are also shareholders in Solarec, the largest dairy in Belgium, which produces 1.4 billion liters of milk per year.
"We have to be extremely active to remain competitive.”
How complex is your business?
Our complexity lies in the fact that milk volumes vary throughout the year, so we have to constantly adapt our production.
Then we have to transform this milk to make exceptional products of very high quality and ethically irreproachable. It is also important to know that most of our products are fresh products and we cannot store them for long. The milk we collect must be processed within 24 hours of its arrival at the factory and we must always have an efficient distribution network. The goal of all this is to get a good price for the milk to our hard-working farmers. All our profits are redistributed to our members.
"People who can afford it must support local products and short circuits".
How do you see the future?
We have grown by 30% in the last five years, mainly thanks to our innovation and know-how. We now manufacture more than 200 different products: Fresh milk, UHT milk, flavored milk, cream, yoghurts, Kefir, fermented milk, cottage cheese, gouda, emmental, ice cream and butter, and the list goes on. We are constantly innovating and developing new products every year like kefir or soon Skyr. On a personal level, I have made eco-responsibility, sustainability, respect for the environment and also animal welfare my priorities since I was appointed CEO in 2018. I hope that legislation will soon require products to have a carbon footprint so that people can make an informed choice about the products they consume. I think that people who can afford it should support local products, and that respect short circuits. Some of the products sold in supermarkets have traveled around the world, while our Luxlait products are all local and 100% Luxembourgish. What is certain is that we have to be extremely active to remain competitive: Electricity and gas prices have tripled, ingredients and raw materials have risen sharply and, in its desire to save the planet, the EU sometimes puts in place constraints so brutal that they limit the activity of many farmers and industries. All actors in the sector must remain in close contact with consumers and the reality on the ground. As aministrator of the European Dairy Association and a member of the German, French and Belgian milk confederations - our three largest export markets in order - I remain very attentive to the evolution of our sector. Luxembourg enjoys an excellent image in our sector, which is very important and also a guarantee of security for the future.