What is a dairy cooperative?
A dairy cooperative is a collective enterprise created by dairy farmers pooling their financial and material resources to develop their farms, process milk and sell it in the long term.
Based on the values of solidarity, fairness and responsibility, a cooperative can range in size from an SME to a multinational.
Examples of French cooperative brands include Cœur de Lion, Candia, Entremont, Le Rustique, Mamie Nova, Soignon and Yoplait.
What are the differences between cooperatives and private companies?
The main difference concerns ownership. In cooperatives, the owners are the dairy farmers themselves (cooperative members), whereas in private companies, the owners are the shareholders.
Cooperatives process all the milk provided by their members. Meanwhile, private companies develop agreements with farmers on the volumes purchased.
- Around 400 factories
- 46% of collected cow's milk
- 55% of processed cow's milk
- More than 260 cooperatives
- 45 000 cooperative members
- 54% of collected cow's milk
- 45% of processed cow's milk
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Farmhouse cheese producers (“fruitières”)
Farmhouse cheese producers are small, local cheese-making cooperatives.
First appearing in the 13th century in certain villages of the Alps and the Jura region, these producers are now mainly found in Franche-Comté and Savoy. Around 200 of them exist today, focusing their business mainly on transforming milk into Protected Designation of Origin (Appelation d’Origine Côntrolée) cheese.
Firmly rooted in their local areas, farmhouse cheese producers help to preserve the diversity of French dairy products and skills. In 2012, for example, makers of Comté cheese exported 3,940 tonnes of cheese, or 7% of their total production.
French dairy SMEs have often been born from a family’s desire to maintain an ancestral tradition. There are currently about 370 of them spread out across France, serving regional or national markets.
Faced with increasing competition from large European or even global groups, these SMEs are increasingly joining forces to improve their performance while aiming to preserve the differentiating features of their products.
Some French groups created at the end of the 19th century to meet increasing demand in towns and cities have adapted to globalization.
Five French groups are listed in the global top 25.