President of the Scop Ti administrative council

Flavoured teas and infusions, made in France

For us it was essential to place people who have fought for this factory at the heart of this new project.

Scop Ti: restoring the local herb and aromatic plant industry

Gémenos (Bouches du Rhône)
Flavoured teas and infusions, made in France
Olivier Leberquier joined Fralib at the beginning of his working life. He worked as a maintenance technician until the Le Havre site closed, leading to an 18-month conflict. 152 employees were offered an equal or better position in Gémenos, in the south of France. They fought to find someone to take over the Le Havre site, but they only came two years after it closed. They took on too few workers, and got the site for a symbolic one franc.
52 people accepted Unilever’s offer to go and work in Géménos. The company “sold” these employees the idea that this was the European flavoured tea factory, providing tea for the whole of Western Europe. They would have a job until they retired.
This relied on two major technical elements within the factory: the cutting line and natural flavouring. In 1998, they decided to shut down the cutting line, and in 2000 the natural flavouring department.

In September 2010, they announced that the site would close.
The main priority was to save the factory’s jobs: “We wouldn’t have closed the door on a company willing to preserve our jobs and our industrial tools. We worked on an alternative solution, supported by a number of partners: our experts, local authorities, regional authorities… We had a few options: a takeover, a SCOP (Participatory Cooperative), or a SCIC (Collective Interest Cooperative), based on the idea that the local identity was one of the main strengths of the project (one of the main parts is the re-establishment of herb farming in our region). In the end, we opted for the SCOP.
Scop Ti, in particular with the “1336” brand (the number of days we fought with Unilever), has restored the herb farming industry to the local area. During our struggles, Scop Ti tested the possibility of sourcing linden from the Drôme. It is grown locally, dried by local producers, and then packaged by Scop Ti. Olivier Leberquier explains: “in comparison, Eléphant brand linden comes from Latin America, is unloaded in the port of Antwerp, is sent to Germany to be cut and flavoured, is packaged in Poland and then sold in France, as it is only used by French consumers. This is a disaster for the environment. Here at Scop Ti, all our organic infusions are made in France.

Olivier Leberquier continues: “the fight against Unilever lasted for 4 years, and 76 employees stuck it out to the end. We used this time to fine-tune our project: the democratic basis of the company, the funds… We put people at the heart of this company project. They are all part of the new team – even if it wasn’t necessarily the best thing from a financial point of view, we couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
France Active supported us via a number of DLA initiatives (local support initiatives): initially, when we hit the first obstacles, and still today, as we are looking to buy land with partners and create a space dedicated to ESS (a social and community-based economy).”


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