of a rebirth
of a rebirth
The origin of Nérolium cooperative dates back to the late 19th century. The booming perfumery industry meant Grasse’s distilleries required an increasing supply of raw materials. Thus, the first floral plantations were created around the city and the cultivation of bitter orange developed in Vallauris and Bar-Sur-Loup thanks to a very favourable local climate.
However, the perfumery industrialists used their position of power to dictate their conditions. In 1895, bitter orange owners decided to form an agricultural trade union to resist their monopoly. In line with the early trend of social economics, Nerolium’s history was born.
Strength through unity
The agricultural syndicate, – accessible “with no distinction of sex”, a rare occurrence at the time – unanimously decided in assembly to handle the distillation process themselves and organised into a cooperative as a result. It’s motto “all for one, one for all” though not original would turn out particularly efficient in making the cultivation of bitter orange the driving force of Vallauris and Golfe-Juan‘s economy in the early 20th century.
The golden age
The cooperative gathers nearly every cultivator in Alpes-Maritimes, including those of
Vallauris who operate the biggest bitter orange plantation in the area. It is divided into
territorial sections. In 1904, the first factory is built in Golfe-Juan including its own flower
unloading hall, twelve stills, boiler room and water cisterns.
The fields get bigger and the harvest bountiful as seen in 1912, with 2000 tons off picked
blossoms. Activity is booming and diversifying, not limited to orange blossom water
distillation. The bitter orange tree produces numerous other valuable resources: young
sprouts used in pharmacy and confectionery, green oranges, peels…
Despite the First World War, orange blossom water sales keeping growing. Golfe-Juan’s
factory soon can’t meet all the demand. In 1920 a new, even bigger production site is opened
in Vallauris with 18 new stills. Bitter orange cultivation experiences its golden age and
Vallauris lives by the rhythm of blossom harvests.
Bitter Orange cultivation experiences a golden age.
The turning point
Then the tide turns…
The 1929 economic crisis, Second World War, a streak of cold snaps, competition from
North-African plantations and the growing pressure of real estate markets chipping away bits
of agricultural land, as well as the arrival of synthetic substitute products follow each other
closely. Year after year yields are in a decline, down to reach their current level at 4 to 6 tons
Nevertheless, men and women from the cooperative aren’t giving up. Inheritors of a unique traditional expertise, they make every effort to share and preserve it. Today, Nérolium cooperative, 50 producers strong, keeps harvesting orange blossom and organises new plantations in Bar-Sur-Loup and at Golfe-Juan’s Château Robert. The entirety of its production is reserved to a great name of France’s perfumery industry.
Nérolium cooperative has also been diversifying, developing new activities: artisanal jam making, events, creation of a shop in Vallauris and an Ecomuseum in Golfe Juan.
To fulfill those aims, it remains dedicated to the mission it has chosen for itself:
revitalise, modernise and share a heritage unique in France.
You own bitter orange trees on your land? You too can join our cooperative, perpetuate its traditions and partake in its renewal. You could share part of its history. Better yet, we could write its future together.