Chicago cheese processorBel Brands USAsaid it expects by 2014 to build and open a 170,000-sq.-ft. plant in Brookings, S.D., to produce Mini Babybel cheese. The U.S. subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries, Bel has two other production facilities in Leitchfield, Ky., and Little Chute, Wis.

“The robust South Dakota dairy industry and its hard-working Midwestern values make Brookings an ideal location for our new plant,” says Lance Chambers, president and CEO of Bel Brands USA. “Bel Brands has experienced significant growth over the past few years, and this new plant is essential to expanding our production capacity to meet the growing demand for our Mini Babybel cheeses.”

Bel Brands manufactures and markets The Laughing Cow cheese wedges and Mini Babybel – America’s #1 branded snacking cheese, as well as Boursin, Merkts, Kaukauna and other natural and gourmet cheese spreads.

Officials say Bel will invest approximately $100 million to build its new plant on a 48-acre land parcel along 32nd Avenue near the I-29 corridor. Plant construction is planned in two phases. The company will break ground on the first phase this summer. Bel Brands said it expects to hire around 200 employees when the first phase of the plant becomes fully operational by 2014. Phase 1 of the project will have a production capacity of approximately 22 million pounds or 10,000 metric tons. The second phase of the plant, which is contingent on anticipated increased market demands, is envisioned to be built in 2016-2017 and will bring another 200 jobs to the area.

Bel noted that Francine Moudry, previously director of operations for the Leitchfield plant, was recently appointed project director to lead the planning and construction of the new Brookings manufacturing facility. Moudry will be relocate to the Brookings area this year.