A brief history
he story of The Laughing Cow® started in 1865 in Orgelet, a tiny town in Jura, in the foothills of the French Alps, renowned for the quality of its milk and cheese. It was here that Jules Bel founded an artisanal cheese dairy specializing in emmental and gruyere.
Thirty years later, his two sons, Henri and Léon, inherited the company and relocated the cheese dairy to the bigger town of Lons-Le-Saunier. The presence of a salt company and the nearby railroad were major factors in this decision, so moving the company was a strategic choice not only for transporting the products, but also because salt is an essential ingredient for making cheese.
During World War I, Léon Bel was assigned to the logistic corps of the army. There, soldiers began drawing humorous symbols on the supply vehicles, to identify the various units. The commanding officer asked Benjamin Rabier, a famous illustrator, to draw a symbol for his unit, the RVF (which stood for “fresh meat supply”). Rabier created the image of a laughing cow (in French: “La vache qui rit”), and a soldier nicknamed it “La Wachkyrie” which sounded like “La Walkyrie,” Wagner’s opera so beloved by the Germans. This nickname would inspire Léon Bel when he created the brand.
Not long after the war, Léon Bel met the Graf family, who had imported a new product – processed cheese – from Switzerland into France during the war. Léon saw the potential of this invention and, with the help of Émile Graf, he launched The Laughing Cow® in 1921.
Léon Bel had the idea to change the brand’s logo, based on a new illustration by Rabier. The image of the cow, formerly standing on all fours, was reduced to a close-up of its head. Rabier’s illustration got its red colour from the printer Vercasson. According to rumour, it was Leon’s wife who suggested adding earrings to the cow to give it a more feminine look.
Three years after production began, Léon Bel outfitted his facilities with modern equipment, enabling him to boost productivity while improving working conditions. It was also at this time that the first machines were designed to produce the triangular portions we know today.
A bigger and more modern plant was built, still in Lons-Le-Saunier. This was followed by the opening of many branches throughout Europe. The brand swiftly expanded its presence around the world.
Some 10 million portions are sold each day in 136 countries, making The Laughing Cow® the fourth largest processed cheese brand in the world. Its products are made at 15 plants on four continents. In Canada, The Laughing Cow® has been proudly produced in Saint-Nicolas, Quebec, since 2007."