A snippet of history about a French jam brand
Not so long ago, Andrésy Confitures used to cook for small grocery shops in the Paris region. Today, this French jam brand is recognised by prestigious customers for the delicious, bespoke recipes it invents and makes.
Gérard Cassan remembers the company’s rise to prominence in the 1980s and the role played by the barge women.
1974: a customer base of small shopkeepers
«When I took over the reins of Andrésy Confitures, which had been founded by my father-in-law, René Walther, in 1952, it was a small French jam brand with a staff of about 10. We made French jams, fruit jellies and cordials using traditional methods and fruit from orchards in the Paris region. Our products sold on the shelves of small grocery shops and on market stalls. In all, we catered for nearly 2,000 customers!»
When the barge women joined Andrésy Confitures
« We were situated at the confluence of the Oise and the Seine, near the port of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, the hub of inland waterways transport. Moreover, today the town is home to the Museum of Inland Waterways Transport. At the time, freight transport by barge was on the decline under heavy competition from the big haulage contractors. Small barge operators had to leave their barge and go to work in the ironworks and car factories. Their wives, too, had to look for a job, which is why around 10 barge women came looking for work at Andrésy Confitures one day. We needed more staff so we took them on. Some were trained as cooks, others in goods receipt.»
1980s: a French jam brand sees business boom
« The arrival of these new recruits doubled our workforce. They were very self-reliant women who had developed enormous physical strength through piloting their barges. All were accustomed to working outdoors, and these mothers, daughters, cousins and nieces formed a tight-knit group who talked at the top of their voices! It took a bit of work on both sides to adapt, but they were sticklers for a job well done, which fitted in well with the Cassan family spirit.
At the time, we were already steam cooking in six copper cauldrons , which had to be dismounted often for cleaning, and each jar was filled and closed by hand.
Andrésy was not a very big French jam-maker, but it was a very new business, full of ideas and plans. We took time to do lots of tests, and we learnt as we went when we developed our recipes. Little by little, advances in technology eased the production process. The barge women were still there, hard at work by our sides.
The growth of supermarkets made it essential to industrialise the plant, and our competitors proved to be a driving force in the sector. As we grew, we adapted, but while maintaining what kept us in the lead: private labelling.»
“From the corner shop to an international customer base, a fine success story!”
Andrésy Confitures’ recipes on the tables of prestigious, luxury hotels around the world
«Today the third generation is upholding the tradition and creating bespoke French jam for prestigious customers, luxury hotels and major supermarket chains. We do business on the international market, where French gastronomy and culinary skills are recognised and appreciated. We have a very active Research & Development Department, we constantly monitor trends and we are very adaptable, so we can meet any demand.»
Andrésy Configures, a family business in more than one way
The first barge women retired in around 2010. I particularly remember Sylviane and Mauricette, who left their mark on the company. All of these women were touched by the family spirit and the example set by the people at the top. Over the years, they brought in members of the family to maintain a sort of continuity. Now the children, grandchildren and cousins of some of these women work in the factory, which employs over 50 people.
I’d like to pay tribute to these barge women, who played a large part in the history and growth of the Andrésy Confitures French jam brand. They shared our love for what we do, helping to make the company a family business in more than one way. »
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