How long has the company belonged to your family?
François Battault: It was founded in 1874 by Gabriel Boudier, and our uncle Marcel Battault acquired it in 1936. Our family had traditionally been wine merchants in Burgundy, but wanted to diversify because the wine industry was in crisis. At that time, "crème de cassis de Dijon" was very popular because it married beautifully with the bitterness of fashionable aperitifs, vermouths and white wines. Our father joined the company in 1941 and took charge of it in the 1960s. He developed the contract production business and took the company to the next level by relocating to the North of Dijon region, which vastly increased our production capacity. Our older brother Jean joined in 1972, then Yves in 1982 and myself in 1988.
How do you explain the company's longevity?
F.B.: Since it was created, it has sought to position itself at the premium end of the market to stand out from its rivals. That remains our approach. We have also been able to seize opportunities to diversify and adjust to market developments. Flexibility is one of our great strengths. We describe ourselves as "industrial artisans", which enables us to react to new trends in our sector and respond to new demand in the market.
We have a shorter decision-making process than most and our production facilities are set up so that we can adapt quickly: two attributes that our customers like very much.
Exports have been a major growth driver since the 1980s. Today, we sell to 70 countries and exports make up 65% of our total revenue. The UK is our main market, ahead of France. This is a big advantage, because British barmen and mixologists are global trendsetters.
In practical terms, how is your business currently organised?
F.B.: We have just adopted a clearer business structure, organising our various activities into three business lines: Gabriel Boudier Solutions, our contract production business (making entire products or just bottling), which accounts for 70% of our revenue; Gabriel Boudier Dijon (our branded products); and Gabriel Boudier Développement (design and production of liqueurs and natural flavourings for industry).
We are excited about the potential of this last business line, and we have just invested in a new laboratory. The aim is to capitalise on our expertise in natural flavourings and in sourcing fruits and plants, in order to develop new products. We have applied the expertise we have developed making cassis to a wide range of fruits and plants, but also mushrooms, teas and coffees. For example, an Earl Grey tea liqueur that we developed for a Japanese client recently won an award in a prestigious international competition.
How does Crédit Mutuel Equity support you?
Y.B.: In 2015, we were looking for a sleeping partner to buy the shares of a family shareholder. We consulted several organisations and we quickly realised that Crédit Mutuel Equity (formerly CM-CIC Investissement)'s approach could result in a more beneficial collaboration. Rather than judging us on our past, Crédit Mutuel Equity help us to look ahead in a very supportive way.
Today, they play an active role in our strategy committee, and they have a deep knowledge of our markets. They are very good at identifying our potential, sometimes even better than we are ourselves!
of revenue outside France