A visit to the Occitane Factory - Provence
L'Occitane Factory, something beautiful doing good!
L'Occitane en Provence is undoubtedly a name you've heard of!
High streets and shopping malls of most major cities in the world have one of the soap, creams and lotions company's boutiques.
Until recently, I had thought they were just another version of several other seemingly similar global brands, only with a Provencal twist, using the charm of Provencal mimosa and lavender to allure!
I knew of course that L'Occitane products were made in Provence.
On the few occasions, when I sniffed and sampled their products, I thought they were very pleasant.
However, if I am honest I rather dismissed them... until I visited their factory in Provence!
I guess you should never judge a book by its cover, or a soap by is wrapping, even if it is very attractive!
Having learned their remarkable story and spent some time familiarizing myself with their products, I was impressed and am excited to share a little of their story!
The Luberon region of Provence has been associated with lavender growing since it was first brought there by the Romans, over 2000 years ago.
Unperturbed by drought or bitter winter chill, lavender soon decorated the hillside plateaus in a warm, fragrant coat.
Its therapeutic uses were recognized early on and eventually it was distilled and used in Provençal essential oils, soaps, and perfumes.
During World War I it was widely used for medicinal purposes.
L'Occitane factory step by step
You'll find L'Occitane factory in a sleek, modern building next to the A51, just outside of Manosque and close to the Durance River.
1- Twenty-three years old Olivier Baussan founded the company L’Occitane en Provence in 1976.
He initially called it L’Occitane.
An Occitane is a ‘woman from Occitania’, the historic region, which encompasses present day Provence.
Olivier used traditional methods of steam distillation in order to produce essential oil from wild rosemary and lavender.
He began small, selling his products at the local markets.
2- Shortly afterwards he discovered a disused soap factory in Manosque.
This is where he began manufacturing vegetable-based soaps, reviving the traditional art of Marseille soap-making.
3- In 1977 L’Occitane had its first lavender harvest.
4- In 1980 Olivier started to explore the world for other ingredients.
He discovered Burkina Faso in Africa, where women produced shea butter.
He immediately realized the immense nourishing qualities of shea and ordered a large quantity for his factory in Provence.
He began the incredible relationship between L’Occitane en Provence and Burkina Faso.
5- By 1990 L’Occitane en Provence had become a fragrance merchant.
Olivier even bought a barge in order to distribute his products.
6- In 1997 L’Occitane en Provence became one of the first companies in the world to feature Braille labeling on its products.
7- In 2001 it partnered with ORBIS, an international NGO that fights blindness.
8- Five years later, Olivier created L’Occitane en Provence in order to support the blind and help the economic emancipation of women.
9- In 2009 L’Occitane en Provence offered eco-refill packaging.
10- The following year the Foundation partnered with Aide et Action in order to support women’s literacy centers in Burkina Faso.
Production based in Manosque
All of L’Occitane en Provence's products continue to be developed and produced from its base in Manosque.
It also sources the majority of its production from Provence, apart from Immortelle plants (Helichrysum italicum, which comes from Corsica.
In addition L'Occitane supports the cultivation of almond trees in Provence, the development of scented and aromatic plants, encouraging traditional cultivation, particularly of lavender.
It does not conduct animal testing, and no animal product or by-product, except for beehive products, used in the manufacturing process.
In 2013, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recognized L'Occitane en Provence as an exemplary company, within the framework of its 2013 "Growing Inclusive Markets" initiative.
Every other year since 2013, L'Occitane Foundation has rewarded an ophthalmologist for his work in the fight against blindness.
L'Occitane en Provence today
Today L’Occitane en Provence has over 2,000 stores in over 90 countries across the world.
Having understood their story, I now view the beautiful L'Occitane en Provence products (official site) with renewed respect.
They are beautifully packaged and presented, perfumed with the fragrances of Provence.
However, more importantly they represent doing good, making the world a better place.
If you are in Provence, I highly recommend stopping by to learn their story first hand!
Manosque - Chemin Saint-Maurice - Department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Coordinates Occitane factory: Lat 43.800776 - Long 5.815110
Credits: Text and photos are ©shuttersandsunflowers.com - Edited by and for TravelFranceOnline - Photo via Wikimedia Commons: header by Winfried Bruenken (Amrum) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5
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