The recipe for “Marseille soap” has been governed by the publication of the Edict of Colbert since 1688. To take advantage of this appellation, only vegetable oils and at least 72% olive oil must be used. Other vegetable oils, recognized for their solidifying power – copra or palm – can complete the formula. But, for the few traditional manufacturers, bringing these ingredients from Africa, South America or Asia is heartbreaking. “The transport of an exotic oil tanker produces 9.4 tonnes of CO2, three times more than olive pomace oil from the Mediterranean basin. However, we use six a year”, regrets Raphaël Seghin, president of Savonnerie Fer à Cheval.
To reduce this carbon footprint, its teams worked for almost two years on new manufacturing and drying methods to produce a 100% olive oil soap. “It was a real industrial challenge,” he continues. Composed of unsaturated fatty acids, the formula is indeed too malleable to be easily used.
A secret method
The manufacturing method, kept secret, does not change the detergent and cosmetic properties of the original recipe. “The soap remains multi-purpose, recommended for personal hygiene, to detach clothes, to make laundry or to wash all types of surfaces”, defends Raphaël Seghin. About forty references: cubes, bars, soaps… will switch to pure olive this year, which will lead to annual savings in CO emissions.2 38.4 tonnes (-68%), according to the company’s calculation.
Since its recovery at the bar of the Commercial Court of Marseille by Belgian industrialists in 2013, the oldest soap factory in the country multiplies innovations to attract new consumers. Its original catalog has thus been enriched with an allergen-free home care range (stain remover sticks, liquid black soap, etc.), another Do It Yourself to make your own products on demand, and a perfumed range based on ingredients of natural origin.
These new products have allowed Fer à Cheval to be referenced by more than 850 retailers in France and in around twenty countries. The soap factory has doubled its workforce and returned to growth, achieving a turnover of 7.6 million euros in 2021.
HORSESHOE SOAPS IN BRIEF
Creation date : 1856
President : Raphael Seghin
Turnover: 7.6 million euros in 2021
Effective : 40 people