Chicago-based Bel Brands Celebrates 150 Years in Business

Chicago-based Bel Brands Celebrates 150 Years in Business

There was no cheese.

There was champagne—Pommery French champagne at The Virgin Hotel on Thursday, December 10, 2015, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Chicago headquartered, global gourmet cheese company, Bel Brands (30 S. Wacker Drive, Ste. 3000). Bel Brands makes portable cheese snacks including The Laughing Cow® and Mini BabyBel®.

Bel Brands Reinvents Snacking:

This has been quite the year for Bel Brands.

They launched a #ReinventSnacking Twitter and Instagram campaign for one of their brands, Laughing Cow Cheese, through event marketing. In Chicago, it was called, “The Laughing Cow’s Love Your Local.”

It was an opportunity for Laughing Cow Cheese to reintroduce itself through a line of new flavors, which it continues to do with Creamy Asiago cheese flavor coming in March 2016.

The events spanned three cities including Chicago, New York, and Seattle, and included guests like The Bachelorette season 9 star, Desiree Hartsock and various Chicago foodie bloggers like, Susie Lemmer (@The_Suzlyfe), Van Mac (@vansventura), and Lauren Lehocky (@ihadabiglunch).

The Laughing Cow brought in special guests for their event in Chicago including, Instagramer Samantha Roby of @ChicagoFoodAuthority and local Chicago Chef Tanya Baker of The Boarding House. They even let us play with our food in an interactive session creating stop-motion videos led by experts, Visual Country.

American Snacking:

Frederic Nalis, Bel Brands USA President and CEO. Photo: Amanda Elliott
“I am a cheese lover,” Frederic Nalis,  Bel Brands USA President and CEO, told me during cocktail chatter.

As a Frenchman, he offered up the contrast between French and American cheese tastes and snacking habits.

The French are more conservative in their cheese taste, preferring nostalgic old cheese, to new flavors, as Americans prefer.

“French want to  find the taste of childhood. They grew up with it.”

Frederic Nalis also noted that Americans are habitual snackers, a practice that has increased radically since the 1970s, when it was 10 percent of meals, compared to today in America, where 57 percent of meals are snacks.

His wife, Marie Nalis, was close by. She was a bit taller than him, and elegant in all-black and pearls. The two met at a university in France.

“From France, I have been following him for the past 25 years,” Marie Nalis said, pointing to her husband, Frederic Nalis, a man who started his career at Procter and Gamble for fourteen years in Germany.

He transitioned to Bel Brands, a company that he has supported globally for twelve years. In the past two years, he assumed the CEO position, using his marketing expertise and business acumen to grow a brand that quite literally, needed to be reinvented.

After the campaign, #ReinventSnacking, Frederic notes, “The brand is doing better. It’s more relevant.”

French Chic Style:

The 150th anniversary celebration was well-attended by French business partners, plant managers from neighboring states, and members of the French consulate.

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During the celebration, Marie Nalis, was delightful and French chic, much like the other women wearing coveted red bottom Louis Vuitton’s.

Marie Nalis, wife of Bel Brands President and CEO. Photo: Amanda Elliott
I asked her, since she is from France, if she shopped French brands of locally. She noted that she enjoys local Chicago shops.

“I love J. Crew. Otherwise, anything that is on sale.”

She has made a life for herself in Chicago, impressed with the beauty and culture of the city. Marie Nalis enjoys the Chicago museums and arts here as a member of The Chicago Architecture Foundation. She has three children, two girls in their twenties who reside in France and a son, who resides in Chicago.

French Entertainment at the Virgin Hotel:

The French themed anniversary party was held in the beautiful and quirky, Virgin Hotel. Entertainment included lounge beats from DJ Castro, a local DJ, who will be providing entertainment for Whiskey Business, the bar attachment to the second Cheesie’s Pub location in Chicago, in Wicker Park, when it opens in 2016.

Additionally, there were two French dressed dancers, who had a brief performance after the Bel Brands CEO’s well-wishes.

In a separate room, with chocolate cake and red balloons, was a special photo booth, The Travelling Photo Booth. An attendee, Colleen Rooney, and I recreated, “Let them eat cake,” using champagne and cake as props.

Say Cheese Bel Campaign:

To celebrate the 150th anniversary on a larger scale, Bel Brands is doing a special fundraiser for its foundation, BelFoundation, which helps children in France and globally .

Currently, Bel Brands is more than halfway to their goal of 150,000 euros.

To be part of the 150,000 smiles shared globally, for 150,000 euros raised, share a photo on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag, #SayCheeseBel.


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