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Part 2: Into Uncharted Waters

February 28, 2017

Driven by his entrepreneurial spirit, Léopold Louis-Dreyfus turned a small grain business into an international company, laying the foundations for the global merchant that LDC is today.

Taking over from their father in 1890, Louis and Charles steered the company through the next chapter in its evolution. Under their wing, the business not only followed in its founder’s footsteps, but also benefitted from developments brought on by the Industrial Revolution, which enabled mass production. This was another extraordinary leap forward in the history of the family company: starting from enhanced means of transportation by land and sea, through trade exchange, and finishing with industrial technology that increased efficiency.


From the late 19th century, the telegraph and transatlantic cable gradually improved communication between Europe and the Americas, allowing farmers and their buyers to negotiate various commodities’ prices while the crop was still growing. Coded messages from traders in Great Britain and America were sent over the telegraph wire or by cable to the company’s headquarters in Paris, where they were deciphered.

Throughout the 1920s, tractors continued to open up new frontiers and new varieties of grain that increased both productivity and yield. Making the most of the decade’s new industrial developments, more than one thousand Louis-Dreyfus representatives could be found in Argentina at harvest time, buying wheat, corn, barley and oats from local farmers, and shipping them all over the world in a fleet that was considered the best performing in France. So much so, that in 1938 the French Merchant Marines requested the plans for the fleet’s long-haul ships, considered to be the best on the seas.

The year 1938 also saw success in South American markets, followed shortly by expansion into Canada, where the company began buying and exporting grains and oilseeds to customers worldwide.

While technological advancement benefited the company during this time, World War II also marked one of the most gruelling times Europe ever faced, and our business was not spared. Yet in spite of everything, the family overcame wartime challenges and difficulties and by the early 1950s, Louis and Charles had expanded the business further into Canada, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Russia, and opened trading offices in Chicago, Winnipeg, Buenos Aires, New York, Johannesburg, São Paulo, Saigon, Shanghai, Bombay and Melbourne. And this was just the beginning…

This post is the second of a 3-part series about LDC’s beginnings. To discover more about our history, read Part 1 and Part 3, or visit the Our Heritage section on our website. For more updates from Louis Dreyfus Company, you can also follow us on Twitter at @WeAreLDC, or follow our updates on our LinkedIn Page.


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