French bakery and patisserie group Holder is investing €40m (US$49.2m) in increasing production capacity as part of a strategy of international development.

The family firm, which retails under the Paul, St Preux and Laduree brand names, is planning to triple capacity at its main site near Lille, from early 2006, to underpin an ambitious expansion programme of opening between 30 to 50 new franchise outlets annually over the new few years.

Holder has 250 outlets in France and through its Paul chain has around 35 outlets abroad spread over eight countries including Holland, Japan, Spain and the UK.

It is set to open its first shop in the US in Florida, in December, while in the UK, Holder is eyeing an additional 50 shops run on a joint-venture basis.