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The success of Bahlsen in France. Best in France Case Study December 2005 . By: Ms. Gounou Ehssane & Ms. Grassl Stephanie. I. History & Business II. Products & Clients III. Coming to France IV. Company values & French culture. V. Constraints in France VI. Adaptation to France

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The success of Bahlsen in France

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The success of bahlsen in france l.jpg

The success ofBahlsen in France

Best in France Case Study

December 2005

By: Ms. Gounou Ehssane & Ms. Grassl Stephanie

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I. History & Business

II. Products & Clients

III. Coming to France

IV. Company values & French culture

V. Constraints in France

VI. Adaptation to France

VII. Key success factors

VIII. Recommendations

Executive Overview

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I. History & Business

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  • 1889:Hermann Bahlsen starts his own ‘biscuiterie’ in Germany

     Creation of new products & umbrella brands

  • 1960:First sales offices in France & Italy

  • 1994:Merger with ‘biscuits St Michel’

  • Bahlsen St Michel SAS

    • Two family companies

    • Through this acquisition the mother company Bahlsen extends its portfolio

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Bahlsen St Michel 2005

  • Part of the group Bahlsen Germany

    • 3700 employees

    • 542 million euros of sales

    • Exports to more than 80 countries

    • Presence in Europe, North America & Asia

  • Bahlsen St Michel France:

    • 124 million euros of sales

    • 476 employees

       France is an important location (second headquarter)

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  • Headquarter: Rueil Malmaison

  • St Michel: Production of St Michel cookies

  • Commercy: Production of patisserie

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II. Products & Clients

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Distinction between brand St Michel and Bahlsen


Produced elsewhere

St Michel

Produced in France

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  • Product lines are hardly being discontinued

    • innovated all the time in order to exploit the product

      lines to maximum level.

  • Innovation:

    • Remarkable

    • Variation of tastes and forms

    • Adapt to new tastes of the consumers

  • Innovation product Bahlsen  Done in Europe France has little influence on them

  • Innovation of brand St Michel  Done in France

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Location choice

  • Reason for location choice:

    • Resources

    • Capacity

    • Cost

  • But for the Brand St Michel the location choice was

  • different:

    • More historical than strategically

    • St Michel is a ‘specialité Française’

    • In France maximum production capacity

    • has been reached!

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Bahlsen in Europe

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  • Distribution channels

  • There are two circuits:

    • GMS (grandes et moyennes surfaces) 80%

    • CHD (consommation hors domicile) 20%

  • Products sold in all big supermarkets  good reference

  • French customers know

    • 97% St Michel

    • 91% Bahlsen

  • Brands are perceived independent

  • Big change to transform St Michel into Bahlsen

    • But must that be the task?

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  • Publicity more for Bahlsen then for St Michel

    2 brands in one company

    • 2 different marketing departments

    • 2 different directors

    • 2 different teams

  • Positioning of products is different, because :

    • Different segments

    • Different price & consummation pattern

    • Different image

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St Michel

Traditional (100 years)

Already loyal consumers

Family product

‘Specialité Française’




Younger people


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French presence is important in order to get

closer to the consumers !

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III. Coming to France

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Why coming to France

  • Bahlsen already exported to 74 countries in 1956

  • They wanted to open up the French market

  • 1960  Bahlsen in France

  • No fast penetration of the market

  • 1994  Acquisition of St Michel

  • Complementarity:

     Products ‘sucrés et salés’

     Direct contact with customer

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With the sales realised in France, it is profitable to be in France

costs are relatively low

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  • IV. Company values & French culture

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Company values I

  • No real problems when Bahlsen came to France concerning the cultural values


  • Problems occurred when buying St.Michel.

     St.Michel had to change its point of view:

    - Former company with small structure

    • Family business

    • Reporting

    • Acceptance of being in a big company

    • Not only decision maker

    • Less autonomy

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Company values II

  • The key values are:

    • Quality

    • Informing the consumer

    • Health issues

    • Regular quality controls

  • Bahlsen succeeded because:

    • Business structure & culture

    • “Informal behavior”

    • Exchanges in R&D

      • This lead to an approach of the companies

      • but the transition took time

    • New ways of communication with headquarter

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V. Constraints in France

  • Not as many differences between Germany and France legal or fiscal  EU

  • Production cost

  • Only RH costs which may concern in the future

  • Differences concerning French labor law

    - 35 hour work

    - long-term constraints of firing personnel

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VI. Adaptations undertaken

  • No dramatic changes undertaken

  • European ‘culture’

  • Having to report

  • French working culture

  • International orientation:

    • No international recruiting (depends more on the individual profile)

    • Bahlsen France is more « French »

    • Former international trainee programs but too costly

       now there is only the reporting and the product exchange

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Adaptations undertaken

  • No much integration of French managers in the international organization.

  • Not many exchanges in the management:

    it depends on the department, for ex. many engineers exchanges

    Key constraint costs:

  • Higher RH costs

  • No real communication constraints

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VII. Key Success Factors

  • High quality of products due to many standards:

    • Strict selection of ingredients

       Instead: natural, healthy ingredients for products

    • Then there is the European regulations: certification IFS (international food standard) and ISO

  • Innovation

  • Big stabile market with stable and high sales

  • Central location in France

  • The high quality of life

  • The “savoir-faire“ & the tradition

  • Qualified labor market

  • Political stability

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VII. Key Success factors

  • Informal culture ( Mr. Bahlsen)

  • Reporting  you feel protected because you belong to a big group


  • Future investments in Europe are not sure

     but at least feeling that Bahlsen is

    attached to its employees

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VIII. Recommendations

Before coming to France:

  • Having right portfolio of products for that country

  • Being close to your customers

  • Good reference

  • EU

  • Motivation

  • Analyse before implementing

    Adaptions while in France

  • Keep the spirit of ‘family company’

  • Innovation of products

  • Quality  ‘savoir-faire’

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VIII. Recommendations

  • Choose right distribution channels  negotiation power

  • Acknowledge differences between certain brands and position them differently

  • Do not want to copy Bahslen Germany in France

  • Keep your own identity

  • Do not impose too much from the headquarters

  • Look at the needs of local customers

    Future Investments

  • Economies of scale

  • Exchange in skills

  • Be careful with employees when making tough decisions

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Do not be afraid of differences

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We Thank

  • Valerie Sajot,

    Human Ressources Development

    22-24, rue Victorien Sardou

    92563 Rueil-Malmaison

    Telephone: 01 56 84 85 05

  • Melanie Andre

    Human Ressources

    22-24, rue Victorien Sardou

    92563 Rueil-Malmaison

    Telephone: 01 56 84 85 15

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  • Presentation Bahlsen France

  • The Global Challenge; Evans, Pucik, Barsouk

  • Questionnairy Best in France

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Our Team

  • Gounou Ehssane

    - Current address:

    K038, 1, rue de la Libération

    78351 Jouy-en-Josas, France

    - Permanent address:

    Verdistraat 256, 5343VM Oss, The Netherlands

  • Grassl Stephanie

    - Current address:

    K040, 1, rue de la Libération

    78351 Jouy-en-Josas, France

    - Permanent address:

    Esterbergstr.39, 81377 München, Germany

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