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The origins of Guérande go right back in history. It has been harvested on the peninsula since the Iron Age. Even today, there are still 5 salt works from the Carolingian era still in operation on the marshes.
In around 1500, these already occupied 80% of their current surface area. Up to 1660, with the development of maritime trade, 2,500 “œillets” (crystallisation ponds) were built. The last salt works were created on the Guérande basin in around 1800, and today over 15,000 “œillets” are in operation.
Between 1840 and 1960, the salt workers had to face up to a long period of crisis, mainly due to international competition from mined salt and Mediterranean salt. As a result, the workforce of between 600 and 900 salt workers in 1840 had fallen to 248 by 1973.
The years 1970 to 1990 were therefore a time of renewal. To defend their salt against the might of industrial salts and their marshes against the appetites of property developers, a united, highly motivated group of salt workers reorganised to follow a modern economic approach. They set up a skills training scheme, founded an agricultural cooperative, bought a trading company and created the Association for the Promotion of Artisanal Salt (APROSELA)… but retained the old gestures that are still responsible for the unique quality of Guérande Salt.
The founding of the agricultural cooperative in 1988 gave the salt workers complete control over their economic organisation. It contains around 200 operating salt workers and takes care of buying, storage, packing and marketing.
As soon as the cooperative was founded, the quality of Le Guérandais Guérande salt became a major component; in 1989, Le Guérandais was thus awarded the Nature&Progress title. In 1991, it also received the valuable Label Rouge title. Still today, it is the only salt producer to have ever been granted it. In 2012, Guérande salt and "fleur de sel" were the first to be attributed a PGI.
In 1992, the Les Salines de Guérande cooperative set up a subsidiary, now merged, to market its members’ production.
In the space of a few years, the Les Salines de Guérande cooperative has enabled the organisation to become totally autonomous in its marketing of Guérande Salt and has achieved a balance in the field between consumer expectations, the demands of distributors and the needs of producers.