Fields of this ‘purple gold’ roll over the hills of Provence and while its scent may summon feelings of safety, lavender here is in danger of contracting a deadly bacterial disease. By supporting farmers in France, Givaudan is working hard to limit this threat.
Lavender’s powdery, herbal fragrance is a familiar and reassuring pleasure that pervades every aspect of life, from prestige perfumery through to personal care and fabric care products across the world. With a rich heritage, these violet flowers were used in 2,500 BC by the Egyptians for embalming and during London’s great plague, people would tie bunches of lavender to their wrists to fight infection. Today the fragrance of lavender is found on every continent, not only in its famous home in France, but also in China, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria.
Lavender belongs to the Labiate or Lamiaceae family, like mint, rosemary, and thyme and is ‘melliferous’, meaning bees can produce honey from its nectar. Fine lavender only grows in France and requires dry, sunny soil at an altitude of 600 metres to 1,200 metres. It is different to its cousin, lavandin, by its short stem, roughly 30 to 40 centimetres long, and its spike with flowers spread along it.
In the heart of the Drôme Provençale region, the Sainte-Jalle valley is one such place where lavandin is grown. A remote rural idyll, it lies at some distance from the main Provencal cities of Valence, Montélimar and Aix-en-Provence. This is the base for the farmers’ cooperative, France Lavande.
The enemy of French lavender
France Lavande was set up in 2007 to help combat a bacterium known as Stolbur’s Phytoplasma, which can weaken the plant until it dies. The disease is known to French lavender and vineyard growers as the ‘dépérissement’ or ‘decline’ and is spread by the leafhopper insect when it sucks sap from the plant. Once contaminated, a lavender plant will die in a matter of months. Nearly 50% of the lavender fields of Vaucluse have been destroyed this way in the last decade.
Healthy plants for a safer future
As a direct result of the need to find a sustainable solution to the increasing threat to lavender plants, Givaudan became a member of CRIEPPAM, a French fragrant plants research organisation. By working with CRIEPPAM and French lavender cooperative, France Lavande, we forged a three-way partnership whereby Givaudan finances the supply of certified healthy lavender plants from CRIEPPAM to the cooperative members.
Facts about lavender
- One hectare of lavender produces 10 kg of oil.
- It takes 80 kg of lavandin to make 1 kg of oil.
- 70,000 healthy plants are now available for cooperative members.
- ‘Lavender’ originates from the Latin ‘lavare’ – to wash.
- Lavender belongs to the same botanical family as mint, rosemary and thyme.
Ethical sourcing programme
Sustainable actions such as these are a result of our ‘Ethical sourcing’ programme, whereby we selected special ingredients to protect and nurture over the long-term. This programme recognises the importance of maintaining the world’s supplies of unique raw materials. By operating sustainable business models involving people, products, the environment and society, the future of these resources can blossom.
Read more about our other ethical sourcing programmes below: