Gilles Gérard (Luxlait): From White to Green
Created in 1894, Luxlait invested €200 million in 2009 to modernize its production. Fourteen years later, the company is still adopting innovations to remain competitive in the international market. Take a guided tour.
Can you describe Luxlait in a few words?
It all started in 1894 with thousands of producers who chose to join forces around an agricultural association. 129 years later and after merging with Laduno in Ingeldorf and Celula in Bettembourg in the 1960s, we have 350 employees and 300 farmers. Note that the latter number has decreased by 80 in five years but that milk production has increased because those who continue to work are expanding their herds. In total 22,000 cows produce 170 million liters of milk annually and we carry out 1,500 analyses a day to ensure its quality. We have never had any health problems. Our economic model is based on three pillars: Luxembourg - which represents 35% of output, finished products for export, and industrial products such as condensed milk bought by biscuit and ice cream producers. We are also 3.5% shareholders in Solarec, the largest dairy in Belgium, which produces 1.4 billion liters of milk a year.
"We have to be extremely active to remain competitive"
How is your business complex?
I'll give you three examples: First, cows are not machines, which means that the volumes produced vary over the weeks and months. A liter of milk has an average of 4.2% fat, so it takes 9 liters to produce a liter of 36% cream. Secondly, few people realize that fresh milk cannot be stored: It must be processed within 24 hours of arriving at our plant and we need to always have an efficient distribution network in place. For pasteurization, we must heat the milk to 75 degrees for a few seconds, which involves a lot of energy. But the real objective of our activities is that we are not looking to make a profit: The real question that interests us is whether the farmers are getting a satisfactory price, which is the case at the moment despite the geopolitical context and inflation.
"People who can afford it must support short circuits"
How do you see the future?
We have grown by 30% over the last five years, mainly thanks to our innovation. We produce 200 products: Fresh milk, UHT milk, flavored milk, cream, yogurts, cottage cheese, Gouda, Emmental, ice cream, and butter. We continue to cultivate our specialties in this field with new “trendy” products such as kefir or Skyr. On a personal level, I have made eco-responsibility, sustainability, and 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 believe that people who can afford it should support short circuits. Some of the products sold in supermarkets have traveled around the world, whereas our Luxlait products are all local. What is certain is that we must be extremely active to remain competitive: Electricity and gas prices have quadrupled and, in its desire, to save the planet, the EU sometimes puts constraints in place so brutally that they constrain the activity of many farmers. All the players in the sector must remain in close contact with consumers and with the reality on the ground.
As a member of the European Dairy Association and the German, French, and Belgian confederations - our three largest markets in order - I remain very much in touch with the evolution of our industry. Luxembourg has an excellent image in our sector, which is a guarantee of security for the future.
Birthday: 12 nov 1971
Place of birth: Fr
Nationality: Luxembourg - France
Hobbies: running, Museum, reading, traveling
Cities: New York, Paris, Madrid
Restaurants: Ma langue souris, La Roma, Lea Linster
Places: Saint Tropez, Marbella
Books: Barack Obama (une terre promise), Boris Vian L’écume des jours…..
Music: Jazz et Soul et Deep Soul
Artists: Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse