VIDEO. Toulouse: from rusk to cereal bar, an olfactory journey to the heart of the LU factory
The Mondelez factory, which manufactures LU products, celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. Friday, June 17, “La Dépêche du Midi” was able to visit its production lines for the occasion. Back to the story of the only factory in town that sent good.
The doors are a bulwark against the infernal noise of the machines. An obstacle for delicious smells. For the 70th anniversary of the factory (which was to be celebrated last year before the Covid-19 upset the plans, editor’s note), the Mondelez group, which bought it in 2012, organized a visit for a few elected officials locals and journalists. Louis Cazaban, the site manager, coaxes the small group into “one of the only factories that has sent good to Toulouse”.
Its story begins in 1951. The smell of hot bread fills the Fontaine-Lestang district. In rue Jacques Gamelin, the production lines of the Paré rusk factory are running at full speed. In front of the building of just over 10,000 square meters, Citroën Type H and 2 CV vans, in the brand’s colors – red and white – parade. The 15,000 tonnes of annual production are transported from Bordeaux to Lyon.
The rusk is living its golden age. The years pass peacefully between the red brick walls of the factory. Rolling business. So much so that in 1963, the biscuit factory pushed the walls of its workshops and warehouses on the north side as well as the spaces dedicated to administrative and commercial offices, changing rooms, medical services, sanitary and social premises. The increase in staff made these spaces too cramped. In the 1970s, manufacturing employed nearly 300 people.
Ten years later, after going through some difficulties, the Paré factory was bought out by Heudebert, who had just taken over the toast manufacturer Pelletier. “I started working at that time, recalls Marie-Christine, one of the oldest employees. It was honestly great. The team was young, motivated and close-knit! “.
In 1988, the factory diversified its activity and added a production line for Grany cereal bars. The only one in France. The bakery has also undergone some modifications. Paré rusks are gradually disappearing from the market to make way for Heudebert and Pelletier.
“The star of our factory is Grany”
The factory enters with a bang in the 2000s. The drama of AZF blows part of the building’s frame and the possible closure of the site tears Heudebert apart in Toulouse. Finally, Danone, which has just taken over and is moving production under the LU brand, saves the 140 jobs. Two decades and two takeovers later, the plant has passed into the hands of Mondelez International.
From the first steps, the smell of yeast, essential for the preparation of bread dough, surprises. A few meters longer, the scent of hot bread caresses the nose. For one or two days, the loaves will go through the cooling process, will be sliced then will go to the four for about ten minutes so that the crunchy rusks come out. Baking today represents nearly 1,500 tonnes of product.
The star is the cereal bar. The sweet smell of cereals linked to a syrup floating near the production line. “We have worked on the recipes and it is with great pride that we produce nearly 2,500 tonnes of it each year,” says Louis Cazaban, the plant manager.
During the excursion, an intense perfume of licorice seizes us. Since 2019, Cachou Lajaunie Toulouse sweets have been made here. Nearly 3 million boxes leave the production line every year.
In 70 years, the star of the secondary sector has faded. But in Toulouse, she still shines. The 14,000 square meters of concrete and metal are a reminder of this. The smells that come out of it too.