A 4TH GENERATION TAKES OVER AT LAITERIE CHALIFOUX
Chalifoux. A name that has been on the tables of Sorel residents for almost 100 years.
The name of a diversified range of products, from Riviera brand, created to satisfy all consumers, from infants to seniors.
Also the name of a family that has worked persistently, year after year, through three generations, to develop new products.
Indeed, Alain (who returned to the business in 2009), Maxime (since 2014) and Mélanie (since 1998), gradually took the helm of the operation that their respective fathers, Jean-Pierre and André, and their uncle Sylvain developed into a leading player in the industry. Jean-Paul, the father of these three men, had already set his sights on that position, following in the footsteps of his mother, Alexandrina, a woman with a good head for business, who, in 1920, left the farm to sell the herd’s surplus milk to the villagers.
From one generation to the next, a love for this business, pride in past successes, and the drive to achieve new heights are the strengths that run in this family’s blood.
A CONSTANTLY EVOLVING BUSINESS
Each new generation has contributed to the advancement of the business, and first cousins Alain and Mélanie will do the same. They have a multitude of projects in mind, the first as President and the latter as Planning and Supply Director, both key positions to which they will no doubt add their colours.
Alain and Mélanie are both very grateful to their father and uncles for making room for them. They consider it a mark of trust as to their view of the business and the future. “They’ve made sacrifices in agreeing to hand the direction over to us. They could have decided to sell to outsiders and pocket the money. That’s how it often goes in the dairy industry these days,” Alain acknowledges. “They’ve signed the papers. The titles are clear. On the board, everyone has their scope of activity. We’re ready to take the reins,” Mélanie explains.
The operation has certainly grown stronger over the years and has come a long way from the original dairy, which has been expanded, and from the production of the first Riviera cheeses, in 1959. Since then, a whole range of specialty cheeses and ultra fresh products has been created.
The Chalifoux family and its team are proud of the successes they have achieved so far. Their dairy products continue to win prizes. A substantial legacy, but one that raises the bar for the younger generation…
Today, the Laiterie Chalifoux employs about 200 people, with whom they maintain a close relationship. They feel very strongly about maintaining an atmosphere in which everyone feels at home.
“Management has something to do with it,” admits Alain, who explains that customer loyalty is no longer achieved the way it was at the beginning. “Competition is strong, and now comes from the multinationals. But we continue to talk about sustainable development, about maintaining employment in the area. That requires strict management, and a strong desire to be able to one day transfer an operation in good health to the possible fifth generation of the Chalifoux family! We all have the same intention, but we won’t necessarily all take the same road to get there!”
Chalifoux, in four chapters
A short history of a family business that is nearly one hundred years old
- Win hearts to gain ground, that’s the theme song for the Chalifoux dairy. And the framework of its history, which starts in 1920, when Alexandrina Chalifoux began distributing the herd’s surplus milk among her neighbours. The milk was smooth, delivery, door-to-door and efficient, and business was booming.
- While Alexandrina is known as the founder of the operation, it was her son Jean-Paul who played the role of pioneer, armed with ambitious plans for the future and all the audacity he needed to implement them. At the time, Quebec’s dairy industry comprised about 5000 family-run operations. To distinguish himself from the competition, Jean-Paul moved quickly, becoming, in 1942, one of the first to obtain a pasteurisation license, and then, in 1945, the right to purchase milk from other producers. In 1959, he again got ahead of the industry when he started producing Cheddar. Thus the Riviera brand was born and Chalifoux embraced a new kind of future.
- That future was Jean-Pierre, the conqueror. With a diploma from the dairy school in Saint-Hyacinthe, and aided by his brothers André, Jacques and Sylvain, Jean-Pierre undertook a thorough modernization of the operation: milk pick-up, equipment, cheesemaking processes and management – nothing was overlooked. At the same time, and to gain ground in new markets, he strategically acquired some of Chalifoux’s competitors, such as Laiterie Sorel and Coopérative Fort Richelieu, and gained access to nationwide distributors. The arrival of Chalifoux products on Steinberg shelves was certainly irrefutable proof of a successful marketing strategy, but its significance was also symbolic: Chalifoux was finally playing in the major leagues.
- In the early 2000s, that league included no more than 200 players in Quebec, a mixed group of determined producers, family-run SMEs and powerful multinationals. Known as the biggest among the smaller players – or the smallest among the big boys, depending on the perspective – Chalifoux has everything it needs to succeed, beginning with its executive team, namely Alain and Mélanie Chalifoux. Cousins of the family’s fourth generation, Alain studied food technology and Mélanie, industrial engineering. Ever faithful to the innovative spirit of their predecessors, these two strategists are forging ahead to anticipate market trends and follow new consumer eating habits. They are the driving force behind the new speciality cheeses, the new brand images of Riviera and Chalifoux, the expansion into Ontario and Western Canada markets, the new plant in Sorel-Tracy… and that’s just the start!