L.D.C. SA History

ZI Saint-Laurent
72302 Sablé-sur-Sarthe Cedex

Telephone: (33) 2 43 62 70 00
Fax: (33) 2 43 92 34 18

Public Company
Incorporated: 1968
Employees: 9,460
Sales: EUR 1.51 billion (2002)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext Paris
Ticker Symbol: LOUP
NAIC: 311615 Poultry Processing

Company Perspectives:

Demanding innovation, quality and safety, reinforcing our core business by enriching our product range, exploiting our brand capital, building new channels for growth in the catering sector and internationally: these are the challenges that will ensure a solid development of growth and profitability.

Key Dates:

Lambert and Dodard Chancereul families combine their poultry slaughtering businesses, forming L.D.C., and begin processing livestock supplied by Les Fermiers de Loué, among others.
Company opens new dedicated poultry slaughtering and processing facility in Sablé-sur-Sarthe.
Company constructs new facility dedicated to processing of Les Fermiers de Loué livestock.
The brand name Le Gaulois is launched.
Company completes its first acquisition, of Mathey, in the Bourgogne region.
Company sells stake to institutional investors.
A central distribution facility, CEPA, is formed.
Company diversifies into catering through acquisition of La Toque Angevine.
L.D.C. goes public on Paris stock exchange; completes first international acquisition, of Hermanos Saiz in Spain.
Company acquires Drosed, leading poultry producer in Poland.
Company acquires Huttepain, a leading poultry feed and livestock producer.
Company acquires Avilaves, in Spain; acquires Regalette, producer of crepes.

Company History:

L.D.C. S.A. (also Groupe LDC or LDC) is France's leading poultry processor, and one of the European top three. L.D.C. produces fresh poultry products--primarily chicken, turkey, duck, but also goose and pheasant--under the Fermiers de Loué, Poulet de Bresse, Poulet d'Ardeche, and Le Gascogne brand names. The company also sells unlabeled poultry and poultry cuts. At the same time, L.D.C. is also a leading producer of poultry-based processed foods, primarily under the Le Gaulois brand name. In a move toward vertical integration, L.D.C. acquired control of Huttepain, a leading producer of poultry and poultry feed and related products. Since the 1990s the company has also diversified into the catering and restaurant sector, producing a line of fresh and prepared foods under the La Toque Angevine and other brand names, and is one of the leading French producers of Asian-style prepared foods through its Chiplong brand. Listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange, L.D.C. remains controlled by the founding Lambert (42 percent) and Chancereul (18.5 percent) families. In 2002, L.D.C.'s revenues topped EUR 1.5 billion.

Artisan Poultry Production in the 1960s

L.D.C. was formed in 1968 when two small poultry slaughterers, Lambert, in the Sarthe region, and Dodard Chancereul, based in the Mayenne region, decided to combine their businesses, thereby covering a wider geographic area. The resulting company, L.D.C., remained largely artisan in nature, and, like the French poultry sector in general, limited to the slaughtering of fresh chickens, which were then delivered more or less unprocessed--complete with head and feet--to the company's customers.

L.D.C. also restricted itself to processing poultry--leaving the raising of livestock to others. One of the company's primary partners became poultry cooperative Les Fermiers de Loué. Also based in the Sarthe region, the Loué cooperative had been formed in the late 1950s and grew to include more than 1,000 small poultry farmers. Rejecting the industrialized techniques of modern poultry groups, the Loué cooperative instead focused on high-quality, free-range poultry, and established itself as the French leader in that segment.

Soon after its creation, L.D.C. moved to centralize processing, building a dedicated slaughtering facility in the Lambert home of Sablé sur Sarthe. The new plant enabled the company to reach the respectable level of 40,000 birds slaughtered each week.

The shift in French consumer shopping away from smaller stores and markets and toward the growing number of large-scale supermarkets and hypermarkets offered new growth opportunities for L.D.C. In response the company began to emphasize the Loué brand, launching a new abattoir in Loué itself. The new subsidiary, called Cavol, was dedicated to the slaughtering and processing of Loué-branded poultry. At the same time, L.D.C. met the demand for new and innovative poultry products, such as filets and other fresh poultry parts, creating its own brand, Le Gaulois, which later came to represent an extensive line of breaded chicken parts and other prepared poultry-based foods. Launched in 1981, Le Gaulois quickly became one of France's leading poultry foods brands.

National Growth in the 1980s

The 1980s marked a period of strong growth for L.D.C. as the convenience of store-bought chicken and other poultry parts stimulated demand. The company began expanding geographically, beyond its core Sarthe region to other major poultry-breeding centers of France. For this, the company launched a long series of acquisitions which were to continue through the 1990s.

L.D.C. began its external expansion in 1984 with the purchase of the Mathey poultry processor and slaughterhouse, based in Louhans, in the Saône et Loire department of the Bourgogne region. That operation, which added processing facilities for chicken and turkey, was renamed L.D.C. Bourgogne. In 1988, L.D.C. turned northwest, adding chicken specialist Serandour, in Lanfains, in the Brittany region. L.D.C.'s original share of that company stood at 35 percent; by the end of the 1990s, however, L.D.C. had acquired full control and changed the unit's name to L.D.C. Bretagne.

The acquisition of Guillet, in Daumeray, in Maine et Loire, allowed L.D.C. to expand beyond poultry, adding slaughtering of rabbit, duck, and pheasant, as well as chicken. In exchange, the Guillet family joined the ranks of L.D.C. shareholders. By then, too, L.D.C. had opened its capital to outside investors, placing a number of shares with institutional investors in 1987 in order to fuel its further expansion. In 1995, the company went public, listing its shares on the Euronext Paris exchange. Nonetheless, the Lambert family remained the dominant shareholder, seconded by the Chancereul family.

L.D.C.'s national expansion continued into the 1990s, with the purchase of Bidou, based in Bazas, in the Gironde, which was renamed L.D.C. Acquitaine. In 1991, the company added further diversified meat production with the purchase of Palmid'or, specialist in ducks, rabbits, and lamb, based in Trambly, in Saône et Loire. By 1991, L.D.C. had succeeded in extending its distribution throughout much of France. In support of its growing operation, therefore, the company founded a new subsidiary, CEPA, for Centre d'Expédition de Produits Alimentaire, which took over as the company's centralized distribution facility.

Diversification in the 1990s

Part of L.D.C.'s success lay in the company's willingness to invest in expanding and extending its business, despite the difficult economic climate of the early 1990s. Among the company's projects was the continued expansion of its core Sablé sur Sarthe facility, which combined both slaughtering and processing operations, and reached a capacity of more than 230,000 chickens and 135,000 turkeys each week, as well as 80,000 ducks and 80,000 rabbits. The company also began developing its own livestock production, founding SA Bressane de Production, launching a new Bresse branded line.

Meanwhile, L.D.C. sought new value-added outlets, including packaged fresh parts, and, especially, the addition in the early 1990s of production equipment and facilities to develop and produce new lines of breaded and fried products under the Le Gaulois brand. In another move to diversify its processed offerings, the company took a 24.5 percent stake in a joint venture called Foie Gras du Maine, which began producing poultry-based pâtés. L.D.C. raised its holding in that company to 75 percent in 1997.

In the meantime, diversification became a company focus through the early 1990s, partly in response to two fast-developing consumer trends: the adoption of ready-to-eat prepared foods as a time-saving option, and an increasing tendency toward snacking--both in-between meals, and as a meal replacement. As a response, L.D.C. decided to extend its operations into a new category altogether, that of the catering segment. In 1994, the company acquired LA Toque Angevine, located in the Maine et Loire region and specializing in the production of cold cuts and, especially, fresh pizzas.

L.D.C.'s growing focus on the prepared and deli foods sectors led it to seek new acquisitions in the late 1990s. In 1998, the company formed Atlantic Traiteur Innovation (ATI), and acquired Soprat, the number two leading producer of Asiatic-style prepared foods in France. ATI also represented L.D.C.'s investment in the in-house development of new prepared food types. In 2000, L.D.C.'s catering operation added Européenne de Plats Cuisinés, based in Roëze, in the Sarthe region, which produced a range of fresh, precooked dishes and sauces.

Despite its interest in prepared food, L.D.C. was no less dedicated to building its traditional poultry business, which remained its largest segment by far, accounting for more than 80 percent of sales at the beginning of the new century. In 1997, the company acquired the Fléchard poultry group, based in the Orne region, changing its name to Société Normande de Volaille (SNC). L.D.C. maintained the Fléchard brand name into the next century; in 2003, however, it dropped Fléchard in favor of a new and more elaborate branded line of processed fresh poultry foods, under the more "feminine" brand name Autour de Lise.

International Foods Leader for the New Century

By then, L.D.C. had weathered a new crisis affecting the poultry industry, after a dioxin scandal, coupled with the outbreak of mad cow disease elsewhere, caused poultry sales to drop off sharply in France. In response, L.D.C. shifted its production to include only animals fed with 100 percent vegetables, vitamins, and minerals in 2000. The company also launched new tracing and sourcing initiatives, guaranteeing that its products came from France and met high quality standards. Also as part of that effort, in 1999, the company bought up Barou, in the Ardeche region, a specialist in organic, free range poultry and poultry cuts.

Another direct result of the crisis in the poultry and meats sectors for L.D.C. was its 2001 acquisition of Huttepain, a leading producer of poultry feed, livestock, and related products. The addition of Huttepain gave L.D.C. a specialized business in the breeding and raising of livestock for the first time, and also direct control of some 40 percent of its livestock supply needs.

Yet L.D.C. had also been putting into place another element of its growth strategy. In 1995, the group took its first step beyond France when it acquired Hermanos Saiz, based in Madrid, Spain. The company originally acquired 40 percent of this Spanish poultry producer, before raising its stake to 98 percent in 1999. The company then stepped up its position in the Spanish market with the acquisition of Avilaves, based in Avila, adding both livestock production and slaughtering operations in 2003.

Two years later, L.D.C. identified another highly promising market, and formed a joint venture in China, in the Shandong province. L.D.C.'s stake in that company, called Shandong Fengxiang L.D.C., remained fixed at 35 percent. At the same time, however, L.D.C. formed a second joint venture, Sandong L.D.C., in which L.D.C. initially took a 65 percent position (since reduced to 45 percent).

Closer to home, L.D.C. began scouting an entry into the Eastern European market, targeting the politically stable Polish market. In 2000, the company bought Polish group Drosed, the leading poultry producer in the country. L.D.C.'s stake in Drosed later reached 97 percent.

By 2003, L.D.C. had grown into the number one poultry group in France and the number three in all of Europe, with sales topping EUR 1.5 billion. While poultry remained the primary source of group revenues, catering had become an important motor for growth. Already in the top five in the sector in France, L.D.C. reaffirmed its intention to develop into a European prepared foods leader in 2003 with the acquisition of Regalette, a specialist maker of crepes and similar food products based in the Morbihan region of Brittany. L.D.C. prepared to carry on its history of quality and innovation in the years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries: Alimab; Ardevol; Atlantic Traiteur Innovation; Aves Ldc Espana (Spain); Bellavol; Cabri Production; Cepa; Drosed (Poland); Européenne de Plats Cuisinés; Foie Gras Du Maine; Guillet; Huttepain Aliments; Huttepain Bouix; Jeusselin; L.D.C. Aquitaine; L.D.C. Bourgogne; L.D.C. Bretagne; L.D.C. Cavol; L.D.C. Sablé; La Gamme (Poland); La Toque Angevine; Les Fermiers De L'ardeche; Oufs Sovopa-Sacofel; Palmid'or; Regalette; Richard; Saiz (Spain); Servol; Shandong Fengxiang L.D.C. (China); Societe Bressanne De Production; Societe Normande De Volaille; Stam/Chantovol; Tom'pain; Volabraye.

Principal Competitors: Doux SA; Gastronome SA; Arrivé SA; Unicopa SA; Glon Volaille SA; Loeul et Piriot SA.

Further Reading:

  • "Le bon choix avec Huttepain pour Le Gaulois," Filières Avicoles, January 2003, p. 6.
  • "LDC confirme son ambition au traiteur," Linéaires, July/August 2003, p. 64.
  • "LDC poursuit son essor malgré la crise," RIA, July/August 2003, p. 13.
  • "Le sandwich nourrit aussi l'emploi," Ouest-France, April 11, 2003, p. 6.
  • Tigale, Claude, "LDC résiste," Le Télégramme, June 4, 2003,
  • ------, "LDC tire son épingle sur un marché au ralenti," Le Telegramme, December 9, 1999

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.61. St. James Press, 2004.