by Philippe Bidaine, pictures by Feyel Artzner
France’s fourth largest producer with some 400 tonnes of the 20,400 tonnes of foie gras produced every year (behind the heavyweights of the French foie gras industry, Labeyrie, Monfort and Delpeyrat), Feyel-Artzner can claim to be the oldest, with a history that dates back more than two centuries.
Caterer Philippe Artzner first set up shop in Strasbourg in 1803. Then in 1853, his son Edouard developed a preparation technique in goose fat, meaning the product could be transported much further than previously. Meanwhile, Feyel had been establishing a reputation for itself in the sector since 1811, becoming the official supplier to Napoleon III in 1861 and contributing to making Alsace the capital of foie gras.
A few years later, the two companies combined, and their names have remained synonymous throughout the 20th century with quality Alsatian foie gras. Controlled by the Olida group and then Paribas, the company became independent again when it was bought in 1994 by Jean Schwebel, a former manager with Kronenbourg – Danone.
Today, true to its origins, Feyel-Artzner mainly continues to produce high-quality foie gras that accounts for 66% of its €30 million turnover in 2008. It employs an average of 110 people all year round, but many more at the end of the year to meet the high seasonal demand. Sales have doubled in the last 15 years, with 50% coming from supermarkets, 25% from specialised networks and restaurants and 25% from exports, an area that has grown strongly in recent years under the impetus of Jean Schwebel.
Although markets such as Germany, Switzerland, Belgium or the United Kingdom remain the most important, development in South-East Asia since 2000 has been extremely rapid in markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore or the Philippines, as well as in Dubai where "halal" foie gras is currently sold.
Unlike other players in its sector that have recently diversified into catering, Feyel-Artzner has opted for vineyards, purchasing the Dusenbach estate in Ribeauvillé. It covers 28 hectares and owns or farms plots of vines in such prestigious AOCs as the Sporen, Schoenenbourg, Schlossberg, Froehn, Kaefferkopf and Altenbourg Grands Crus.
Jean Schwebel recently said that with the support of the foie gras branch sales teams, sales of wine should exceed in 2009 the €1.3 million of the previous year.
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