"The IPG is at a turning point in its history"

Jean-Marc Collomb, who has just retired from his position as director of Fromco, has decided to step down from the IPG committee as of the end of 2023. This marks a turning point for the man who, before representing refiners on various bodies within the organisation, actively contributed to its creation nearly 30 years ago.

28 May 2024
Around Le Gruyère AOP

“More than ever, all the players need to pull together"

Jean-Marc Collomb, former member of the IPG Committee

"I lived through the early days of the alliance to save Gruyère cheese in French-speaking Switzerland," Jean-Marc Collomb recalls. In fact, in the 1990s, with the free market, the end of support for milk production and the suspension of federal measures to promote milk, it was thought that milk would find its own way into the high added-value channels. For the advocates of an excellent Gruyère, it was a question of fighting the threat of industrialisation and commoditisation of the product. This is why, from 1994 to 1997, Jean-Marc Collomb worked alongside Philippe Bardet to create the IPG. He was responsible for developing the organisation's concept, mobilising its partners - 3,200 milk producers, 200 cheese dairies and 7 refining companies at the time - setting up management tools and promoting it in Switzerland and abroad. "If I look at our reputation, our AOP and the increase in our market share, I can say that we have been well inspired," smiles Jean-Marc Collomb. The figures do not contradict him: since 1997, production of Gruyère AOP has increased from 20,000 to 32,000 tonnes.

Getting to know each other to work together

Among other developments, Jean-Marc Collomb points to the competition that is flooding export markets, as well as the ever-increasing demands of customers. But it's an internal factor that challenges him the most: the IPG's lack of esprit de corps. "The world is in transition and the IPG is at a turning point in its history. Global crises, inflation and the environmental transition are all having a major impact on our industry. More than ever, all the players need to pull together, beyond partisan positions," says Jean-Marc Collomb. With this in mind, he recently took part in implementing an internal training programme designed to bring the IPG's 3 professional families closer together and energise the members' network. "There are still too few people enrolled. Yet it's a unique opportunity to understand the IPG as a whole and the realities of each individual member," he points out.

Is milk price sharing an avenue worth exploring?

Is the IPG too prescriptive? Jean-Marc Collomb is aware of the comments made by some members. On a personal level, he would be in favour of a system in which everyone had more room for manoeuvre within the basic specifications. This would imply a different philosophy and a different type of governance. However, he feels that it is essential to adhere to a common vision and rules: "I deplore the attitude of remaining a member, so that you can enjoy the guaranteed quantities and price of milk, while constantly grumbling about the framework in place," he adds. To curb discussions on the rules in force, particularly on prices, he puts forward a proposal: "Involving milk producers in the sales and price of Gruyère AOP through a participatory system would bring clarity to the process and facilitate understanding between the players," he suggests.

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