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Generational Business Series Part #3: Lallemand

Generational allies have been key to the 85+ year success of Scott Labs. This series explores how enduring relationships impact business and family. Today I highlight how trust and integrity gave way to our most defining relationship.

The Lallemand and Scott story began like many other relationships: Out of desperation. Since 1934, Scott cultured the yeast collection it inherited from UC Berkeley. Initially on slant and then as Active Dry Yeast (ADY) starting in the 60's (old catalog list below). In 1974 we lost our drying partner, Anheuser Busch, because we were too small (so was the entire industry!) Anheuser Busch connected us with Lallemand to explore the possibilities. At the time Lallemand was dedicated to baking yeast and was the dominant producer in Canada.

With only two tons of wine yeast on order, a new relationship was formed. For Scott, we had a new partner focused on quality and consistency. For Lallemand, they discovered a new world outside baking.

The relationship started off great, or so my grandfather thought. For Scott Labs, we had beautiful, well produced yeast and happy customers. For Lallemand, they had a new two-ton headache for some Californian dreamers. When harvest '74 ended, we asked for a similar order for the next harvest. Jean Chagnon (Gen2), son of proprietor Roland Chagnon (Gen1), ran the numbers and had to refuse our order. Without more volume, Lallemand couldn't justify this new wine yeast business.

Desperation (Scott) and curiosity (Lallemand) bred collaboration. Robert gave Jean contacts for the wine labs of Europe. Like ourselves, these labs specialized in yeast selection and liquid/slant production. Jean visited IOC, Wädenswil and more. He saw the value-add Lallemand could bring to accelerate selection, isolation and production. Further, the consistent, high quality drying of strains increased quality and usability for winemakers who could now “pitch on demand.” In 1974 Lallemand created the modern wine yeast business. Lallemand now also saw a world of specialty yeast and bacteria outside baking.

The vision, commitment and perseverance of Robert Scott and Jean Chagnon created a market. Collaborations between Jean and Bruce Scott (Gen2) accelerated ADY as common practice. The USA was ground zero for the popularization of ADY and the proliferation of strain selection to match varietal and sensory selections (see above ad featuring the OG of yeast: Clayton Cone).

Business grew with a commitment to customer interest and need. Lallmand began to supply the major wine yeast labels globally (see IOC in 1987 below). Today, Lallemand is the most important global producer of specialty yeast and bacteria. Our wine strain portfolio has expanded from the original four to the 65+ currently listed. Lallemand has many hundreds more isolated varieties in its library. 

In 2003, I began working for Bruce Scott and was shortly introduced to Jean and his son Antoine Chagnon (Gen3). The saying goes: “You are the company you keep.” By that standard, I feel pretty good about myself keeping company with Jean and Antoine. Below a photo of Antoine and me (infinite opportunity for business analogies: same boat, with paddles, etc.) In 2019 we officially joined the destinies of our companies and families. A clear eventuality after 45 years of trust, integrity and respect.

Today Antoine is leading Lallemand forward in baking, life science, beer, spirits, cheese, pharma, plant-care and wine. The oenology group includes a host of the original labs including Scott, Perdomini (Italy) and Institut Oenologique de Champagne (IOC), but also a host of researchers who continue to drive innovation in our field. Scott Labs retains its own flavor, focused on the specific needs of the North American maker. Our handbooks have been driven on the engine of Lallemand products, but interpreted through local expertise. Expect another 45 years of the same.

With a hearty thanks to Anheuser-Busch for “matchmaking,” the Scott/Lallemand business has grown continuously. Two companies, two families changed and bound in business and friendship. 

Business is personal. Generational business is more. It's family.

Zachary Scott, CEO, Scott Laboratories