Provence Prestige Insists On Made in France
As job losses soar in the austerity-wracked economy, the call is out — buy Made in France — a patriotic watchword in Pays d’Arles which since 1994 has insisted everything for sale at its annual Provence Prestige Salon comes from artisans in the region.
Since 1994 the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Pays d’Arles has organised the Luxury Living Event providing hundreds of exhibitors with a market place ahead of Christmas and unusual in that it sells only products 100% Made in Provence.
This year’s message was fortuitously strengthened after Arnaud Montebourg, the minister charged with “repairing” the French economy, posed earlier this year wearing traditional Breton sailor knitwear and proudly announcing he backs products Made in France.
The Provence Prestige Salon, which annually selects 150 exhibitors for what it describes as a regional showcase of expertise by “ambassadors for the art of living in Provence”, is held between November 22 and 26 at the Palais des Congress Arles.
Each year the exhibition attracts some 30,000 visitors from all over Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon and last year the sales turnover was some two million euros. Francis Guillot, President of the Pays d’Arles chamber says: “The measure of our success is the satisfaction achieved by our exhibitors”.
Should you miss out on this Christmas market another edition takes place at Mandelieu-La-Napoule between 14 and 17 February 2013 just in time for Lent!
Francis Guillot told Paul Ferrier of regional paper Ml’actu.fr, the selection process is extremely choosy, “unique in France”, and focused on the region’s artisans and agriculteurs:
Delphine Crosse has a stall at Provence Prestige and says the fair embodies Provencal success. For some years she has been making a name for herself in textile accessories produced entirely in the region.
Her label — Lulu in Provence started to become really well-known when she began selling handmade hand bags. “Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress in Sex and the City, who spent a holiday in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence bought a bag, and was then photographed with it in the British tabloids,” says Delphine Crosse adding that “bag sales exploded”. But she says it was not just the Sarah Jessica Parker effect, “do not underestimate the power of Provence Label, it is well established and known for quality and luxury”.
Bernard Martin heads his family business, the conserverie Jean Martin in Maussane-les-Alpillesis which specialises in Provencal recipes. He employs 40 people and has an annual turnover of 7.5 million euros. Our unique selling point he says is that all ingredients are locally sourced and all food is cooked on site. The company has planted tens of thousands of olive trees to secure local supply. ” 80% of our raw produce comes from local farmers in the region. We try to respect that, and ensure that our offer is competitive.” he says. But Made in Provence does come at a cost and supermarkets are difficult competitors. “It’s always more expensive to source locally, that is why our product is more expensive,” he adds . There is no doubt producing in Provence is a challenge, “especially against imports from neighbouring Italians and Spaniards” but it is worthwhile, he says.
Made in Provence has advantages and disadvantages as can be seen in this tale of “The Elephant” teas.
The Fralib de Gémenos plant which blended and packaged this brand was closed by its parent company Unilever because the site was not “sufficiently profitable”. The challenge of unemployment was taken up by the redundant staff and 72 of them formed a cooperative to save the plant. The twist came when they opted to revert to a time 30 years ago when tea was actually grown in Provence. The “Fralibiens” are sure they have a good product and are hoping for government backing to help market another Made in Provence label.
Listen to Olivier Leberquier of Fralib talking of their hopes here:
Story: Ken Pottinger
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