Savon de Marseille :
It is as French as baguette, and as emblematic as the Eiffel Tower.
However there has been a dispute over the "official traditional" recipe for its production.
With cheap Chinese and Turkish soaps flooding the market, manufacturers want Marseille soap to be granted a "geographical indication" (GI) so consumers can tell the difference between the real thing and cheap imports.
But a dispute over how "true Marseille soap" should be made has the producers themselves at each others throats.
In one camp are a dozen soapmakers from across the southeast of France led by the cosmetics giant Occitane who have formed the Association of Makers of Savon de Marseille (AFSM).
It was they who filed the bid in October to have the soap recognised as a GI, a designation which already protects many French wines and cheeses.
In the other corner are four die-hard traditionalists, master soapmakers from the Marseille area itself who want to bring the product back to its artisanal roots.
While they are pushing for the norms for a "traditional savon de Marseille" to be based on vegetable oil and soda ash, they also want certain additives and perfumes to be allowed.
But this is heresy for the traditionalists who make their soaps from scratch in large cauldrons without recourse to ready-made ingredients produced elsewhere.
Marseille soap was original made with sea water, olive oil and soda ash, but for decades olive oil has given way to palm and copra oil.
Only made in Marseille:
Their lobby group, the UPSM, however, insists that true savon de Marseille can only be produced by artisanal makers in the Bouches-du-Rhone region around the city.
The French government, is taking its time over the decision partly because the Marseille soap will be the first manufactured item to be given the IG status -- something that has up to now been reserved for food products.
It hopes it will lead the way for other French regional products like Basque berets, Limoges porcelain and knives from Laguiole getting the same classification.
Not to worry about Petite France products because we did source our suppliers and met them in France and we can assure you that all our products are 100% made in France in the traditional way!