Sweeter than hand sanitizer: Handmade French soaps get a boost.

Traditional Marseille soap-makers are enjoying a resurgence of interest in their product as hand sanitizers are getting harder to find across Europe. Each bar is crafted by hand using an abundance of local oils, soda, and salt.

Melanie Dinot, a worker at the Savonnerie de la Licorne in Marseille. Traditional French soap-makers are responding to meet the high European demand for soap amid the global pandemic.


Amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus across Europe, the hallmark Marseille tradition of soap-making is enjoying a renaissance, as the French rediscover an essential local product.

Serge Bruna's grandfather entered the then-booming business in the southern port city more than a century ago. His father followed suit, although the family enterprise was requisitioned during World War II, when soap was considered an essential commodity.

Today, Mr. Bruna sells soap from the same shopfront on Marseille's Old Port – wearing a sanitary mask and skintight gloves. Even though we work in a factory full of virus-repellent soap, it is good to take precautions," he said. Mr. Bruna's Savonnerie de la Licorne, which runs four soap shops on the Old Port, a museum, and a small factory in the heart of Marseille, has seen its shop sales increase 30% and delivery orders quadruple since Italy declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus. "We had fewer tourists or none at all in our stores," he said. "On the other hand, Marseille residents were much more frequent visitors and some even came to stockpile."

As the public rushed to buy supplies to last during a looming quarantine, Mr. Bruna and his artisans continued making soap by hand, filling the port-view shops as well as boxes destined for export.

BFMTV, a French news outlet, reported on the surge of demand for traditional French soap as hand sanitizer is running out.