The origins of Guérande go right back in history. It has been harvested on the peninsula since the Iron Age. Even today, there are still 5 salt works from the Carolingian era still in operation on the marshes.
In around 1500, these already occupied 80% of their current surface area. Up to 1660, with the development of maritime trade, 2,500 “œillets” (crystallisation ponds) were built. The last salt works were created on the Guérande basin in around 1800, and today over 15,000 “œillets” are in operation.
Between 1840 and 1960, the salt workers had to face up to a long period of crisis, mainly due to international competition from mined salt and Mediterranean salt. As a result, the workforce of between 600 and 900 salt workers in 1840 had fallen to 248 by 1973.
The years 1970 to 1990 were therefore a time of renewal. To defend their salt against the might of industrial salts and their marshes against the appetites of property developers, a united, highly motivated group of salt workers reorganised to follow a modern economic approach. They set up a skills training scheme, founded an agricultural cooperative, bought a trading company and created the Association for the Promotion of Artisanal Salt (APROSELA)… but retained the old gestures that are still responsible for the unique quality of Guérande Salt.
The founding of the agricultural cooperative in 1988 gave the salt workers complete control over their economic organisation. It contains around 200 operating salt workers and takes care of buying, storage, packing and marketing.
As soon as the cooperative was founded, the quality of Le Guérandais Guérande salt became a major component; in 1989, Le Guérandais was thus awarded the Nature&Progress title. In 1991, it also received the valuable Label Rouge title. Still today, it is the only salt producer to have ever been granted it. In 2012, Guérande salt and "fleur de sel" were the first to be attributed a PGI.
In 1992, the Les Salines de Guérande cooperative set up a subsidiary, now merged, to market its members’ production.
In the space of a few years, the Les Salines de Guérande cooperative has enabled the organisation to become totally autonomous in its marketing of Guérande Salt and has achieved a balance in the field between consumer expectations, the demands of distributors and the needs of producers.
1972 The “Groupement des Producteurs de Sel” (Salt Producers’ Group) is founded
1979 The Salt workers’ Professional Training Centre is set up in La Turballe
1988 The Groupement des Producteurs de Sel takes on the status of an Agricultural Cooperative
1988 The UNIVERS-SALT association is founded as a means of sharing the Guérandais salt workers’ expertise with rice growers and salt workers in Guinea
1989 Award of the Nature & Progrès label
1991 Award of the “Label Rouge”, a French quality label
1992 The sales subsidiary “Les Salines de Guérande” is founded and the “Le Guérandais” company is bought in Pradel and absorbed in 2001
1994 A reception structure is set up to enable visitors to learn more about the salt marshes and the work done by salt workers: the “Maison du Sel” in Pradel (Association in 1996) which is later to become “Terre de Sel”
1997 The cooperative sold 100% of its production and became independent from private traders
2002 The tourist reception structure “Terre de Sel” is inaugurated
2006 The whole range is given a new look and the first poster advertising campaign takes place
2010 The cooperative's premises were extended to include sustainable development features
2012 Obtaining of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for "Guérande salt" and "Guérande fleur de sel"
2015 Le Guérandais is now established in 55 countries