Anis de Flavigny: authentic aniseed sweets from France in a keepsake tin18-01-2017
The “white pearl of Burgundy” as it is fondly known in France has gained popularity worldwide and its owners have ambitious plans for its growth.
Flavigny is a small, picture-postcard village in the heart of the beautiful Auxois countryside, famed for its production of aniseed sweets. Back in the Middle Ages, monks from the city came up with the idea of making confectionery, and 400 years later, Anis de l’abbaye de Flavigny is still in business today, in the same original buildings.
“The process is the same except we now have electricity rather than steam-operated engines,” points out Catherine Troubat.
She has been in charge of the company since 1990 having taken over from her father and his father before him. Since her arrival, production of anise, or aniseed, has increased from 1 million to 4 million tonnes and the workforce has more than doubled – from just 16 employees in 1990 to 33 in 2016.
Aniseed remains a firm favourite among a wide spectrum of flavours
“It is still our best seller”, explains Catherine Troubat. In keeping with this ancient tradition, producing Anis de Flavigny sweets is a long, meticulous process. The seeds of the anise plant are cleaned and rigorously checked. They are then transferred to large copper pans where they are rolled in sugar syrup for 15 days until they transform into the famous aniseed pearls or balls. This original, handcrafted recipe is the guarantee of a natural product with no artificial colours or aromas, no sugar substitutes, preservatives or GMOs.
The sweets come in other flavours too, including cassis, orange blossom, ginger, tangerine, mint, liquorice, rose and violet. Natural oils are extracted from vegetables by steam distillation or alcohol extraction. It takes two tonnes of rose petals to make a litre of essential rose oil.
“All the oils we use are 100% natural, non-synthetic and very delicate as a result,” explains Catherine Troubat.
Pearls of wisdom on every continent
Small tins of Anis de Flavigny are a huge hit in international markets. Sold in 35 countries, in Europe, Japan, Korea, USA, South Africa and South America, the product has slowly but surely found its niche in delicatessens and high-end retailers the world over. To raise awareness, the export division exhibit at key international food fairs including Fancy Food in San Francisco and New York, ISM in Cologne, Foodex in Tokyo, SIAL in Montreal, Anuga in Cologne and SIAL in Shanghai. To be successful in export sales, what counts most is being able to tailor the product to local tastes.
“We sell other flavours in foreign markets, such as lemon, mint and liquorice. Aniseed is not popular in Asia, but they love rose. Germans want the original product while Americans are hugely into violet.”
And when we ask Catherine Troubat why this tiny sweet is such a hit, her response is simple: “because it is small and beautifully packaged.”
Packaging, a sure route to sweet success.
Packaging has also played a huge part in the success story. The iconic oval metal tins tell the love story of a local shepherd and shepherdess, an eternal romance depicted via a number of scenes on every tin. “I like to sketch out the story with a few scribbles, and afterwards I ask an illustrator to bring it to life,” explains Catherine Troubat.
The small metal tins are sold in garden centres, service stations, railways, department stores, organic specialists, sweet shops, newsagents and delicatessens.
Did you know?
True fans allow Anis de Flavigny® sweets to melt in the mouth to reveal the aniseed seeds hidden in the centre.