The Laughing Cow (French: La vache qui rit) is a brand of cheese products made by Fromageries Bel, and in particular refers to the brand's most popular product, the spreadable wedge.
The cheese is a blend of cream, milk and fresh and aged cheeses, particularly comté, which are pasteurized to stop the ripening process. Versatile and portable because of its pasteurization process, Laughing Cow can remain unrefrigerated for a limited length of time. The archetypal Laughing Cow cheese comes wrapped in the individual serving-sized foiled wedges, and they are packaged in a round, flat box. Consumers have to pull a little red thread around the box to open it, and the foil packaging also features an easy-opening red tab. In various worldwide markets, it is served as squares, rectangles, slices (in mainland Europe, marketed under Toastinette), bite-sized cubes, pods (aimed at younger children) and in spreadable tubs. The Laughing Cow is also available in "cheese dippers" consisting of cheese and breadsticks to create a fun snack, which are marketed as The Laughing Cow Cheez Dippers (or Pik & Croq in mainland Europe), and these are in four varieties; original, light, hazelnut and pizza. Because it is a smooth, sweet, buttery cheese, it is favored by children and eaten usually in France as a part of picnic. In 2009, Laughing Cow introduced a TV commercial where the company introduced a new slogan, Have you laughed today?
Laughing Cow is available in its original flavor, a light version with only 7% fat, and an ultra-light version with just 3% fat. In addition, flavored versions of the cheese (such as ham, gruyère, garlic, paprika, mushroom, chèvre, bleu, hazelnut, pizza and onion) are also available in various markets worldwide. Bite-size cubes of Laughing Cow are flavoured in various countries and are designed to be eaten with alcoholic drinks at parties; these cubes are marketed under Cheez & Fun in many European countries, and also Apéricube in France and Belgium, PartyCubes in Canada and Belcube in Japan. They are produced in 24- or 48-cube boxes of one flavour, eg. bleu, ham, salmon, chilli pepper and olive, or they are produced in 24- or 48-cube boxes of a particular theme, eg. Cocktails du Monde, Petites Recettes, Tex-Mex and Indian.
They also market snack cheeses wrapped in wax under the name Babybel.
The laughing cow is red and jovial, and is almost always depicted wearing earrings that look like the round boxes the cheese comes in. On April 16, 1921, Léon Bel trademarked his brand, called "La Vache qui rit," in France. In the trademark, the cow is said to have a hilarious expression. Bel had made the original drawing himself, after seeing a traveling meat wagon during World War I called "La Wachkyrie," a play on the word for Valkyrie. In the beginning she wasn't laughing, she wasn't red and she didn't wear earrings. This patent was the very first branded cheese product registered in France. In 1924, Benjamin Rabier, a famous illustrator, edited the drawing into more of the image that prevails today. The blue and white stripes around the box date from 1955. In 1976 both boxes in the ears are shown with the top-side visible. Before that year consumers were shown a top and bottom side.
It has long been popular in the United Kingdom, where it is viewed as a healthy children's snack. The cheese has also been a constant, but hardly popular product in the United States for a number of years. However, demand for the triangular wedges has skyrocketed recently, since the light version of the product was suggested as a viable menu item to followers of the South Beach Diet. The question asked by the French, "Pourquoi La Vache Qui Rit rit?" ("Why is The Laughing Cow laughing?") has become synonymous with the product.
The cheese is quite popular in the Middle East. Because no animal rennet or pepsin is used it is considered halaal by Muslim standards. Groupe Bel announced on October 2, 2005 that they plan to open a 13 million euro factory in Syria. This was the first such direct investment in that nation by a French food company.