Smoked salmon pioneer and founder of Labeyrie dies

Robert Labeyrie has died at 96 years old.

Sud Ouest reports that Labeyrie founder Robert Labeyrie who popularised smoked salmon and foie gras passed away on Monday.

He set up the business after WW2 when he was 23 in the Landes region, southwestern France with an aim to bring his regions’ specialities to “every table in France”.

He was notably one of the first entrepreneurs in France to offer products in his name on the shelves of the mass distribution.

Robert (pictured centre) started the business in Dax in 1947. PHOTO: Labeyrie

He was inspired and impressed by how his Nordic neighbours smoked fish, he could not find anyone to do so in France. Labeyrie sent his shop manager to Norway to learn. In the early 1960s, he launched the first packaged smoked salmon available in French supermarkets, making artisan products – otherwise only available at Christmas – available to all, all year-round.

The first salmon production unit was established in Saint-Geours-de-Maremne in 1963, reports France Soir. At first supplied by wild salmon from the river Adour, the plant turned to farmed fish in 1965.

After making the company a dominant player in the French festive foods market came in the mid-1980s, Robert Labeyrie sold his company to Européenne de Gastronomie, a part of Bank Suez in 1986. Under Européenne de Gastronomie, Labeyrie turned towards the mass retail sector where it sits today.

Labeyrie drifted towards a passion for art in his twilight years. In March this year, three children filed a complaint of “abuse of weakness” in protest of his decision to donate of his art collection to the City of Dax.


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