Home > ABOUT OUR COFFEE > Leroux
Leroux

Leroux is the world's leading producer of chicory; its output is 125,000 metric tons of chicory a year, which it ships to more than 50 countries. Popularized by the French as a coffee substitute in the days of Napoleon, chicory was pitched for its health benefits after World War II. Later, Leroux promoted it as the all-natural, "green" drink of the third millennium. Leroux supplies 95 percent of the chicory consumed in the United States, where it is best known for the distinctive flavor it adds to New Orleans-style coffee.

Leroux was established in 1858 when Jean-Baptiste-Alphonse Leroux acquired Herbo Fils & Cie from Francois Herbo, who originally launched a firm selling chicory, chocolate, mustard, and tapioca. In 1871, Leroux dropped sales of all other products to concentrate solely on the production and distribution of chicory. In 1895, after the death of his father, Alphonse-Henri-Eugene Leroux takes over the company. With the industrialization of the 20th century, Leroux grew rapidly from 1900 to the beginning of World War I, and quickly became France's largest chicory producer. It had 160 employees by 1914, when it was making 7,000 metric tons of chicory a year--one-tenth the entire country's production. In this period, the company began advertising and promoting "Leroux" as a brand name. A broad array of sub-brands targeted to particular markets followed.

Like most businesses at the time, WWI was devastating to the company, but that did not stop Leroux from continuing its path of growth and success. Leroux's home village of Orchies was burned in 1914. During the war, Alphonse-Henri-Eugène set up shop in Havre and other locations. The factory was rebuilt after the war. In 1927, the company became a SARL (société anonyme à responsabilité limitée), or limited liability company: SARL Leroux. This structure facilitated the shared leadership of Alain and Robert Leroux after World War II. Alain and Robert Leroux took over management of the company in 1947. Alain gravitated toward operations, while Robert immersed himself in marketing. During the four decades the company was under their direction, distribution was expanded while processing methods were refined.

The later half of the 20th century brought the company's focus to international presence. Leroux pursued a strategy of global expansion in the 1990s (exports accounted for 25 percent of sales in 1986). A branch office opened in Montreal in 1989 and two years later the company set up a subsidiary in Belgium, a large producer as well as consumer of chicory. Leroux exported 9,000 metric tons of chicory in 1991, when it had revenues of FRF 220 million. Later in the decade, the company opened a branch office on Africa's Ivory Coast. Leroux also began acquiring other chicory production companies across the globe during the 1990s, including Belgium's Chicobel and Spain's Molabe. Today, Leroux is present on all 5 continents.

Chicory is a gluten-free, naturally caffeine-free drink that is often found to make the perfect substitute for coffee. In fact, Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians consumed chicory for its many benefits including its aid to the digestive process. Chicory is a 100% plant-based root that is high in soluble fiber, and low in calories. While coffee and chocolate became products of mass consumption during the 18th century, chicory did not yet meet the same widespread demand. After Napoleon blocked British shipping companies from carrying their Caribbean produce to Continental Europe in 1806, French citizens turned to chicory as a coffee substitute. The introduction of the railroad in the mid-1800s also helped spread chicory's success across France. As chicory continues to increase in popularity in today's health-conscious market, Leroux maintains a focus on providing environmentally-friendly and organic products to its customers.

Chicory offers a unique roasted and carmelized taste. It is a strong source of fiber, has 100% plant-based origins, and is naturally caffeine-free and gluten-free. It offers a wide array of applications, from sweet to savory. It can be added to coffee to create a unique taste, or be used as a coffee-substitute. It is particularly popular in dairy products, and is found to intensify chocolate flavors. Instant chicory adds a hint of caramel, warm aromas, and, at higher doses, a slightly bitter note. It can also be used as an ingredient in bread or other savory dishes to render them even richer, more aromatic, and even extends their shelf-life.

Leroux works closely with the farmers who produce chicory, bringing their 150 years of expertise in a constant collaboration to improve the plant's properties. Thousands of tons of chicory root are transported from the farms to the Leroux drying plant located in Vielle-Eglise, in Northern France. Once the chicory root slices are dried, they are roasted in a controlled process according to the grain size of the raw material to obtain a sweet and well-balanced chicory. Leroux's specialized production process helps the instant chicory maintain all of the benefits of the plant root. All Leroux products, in addition to being naturally caffeine-free and gluten-free, are also guaranteed to be non-GMO and kosher. They are certified by numerous quality, environmental, and organic agencies, but Leroux continues to go above and beyond as a leader. For example, a recent initiative by the company to establish beehives at the Leroux museum (Musée Leroux) helps show the company's commitment to protecting the world's bio-diversity.