French confectioners battle Chinese firm over Calissons d'Aix

A picture of Calissons sold by leading French manufacturer Roy René Image copyright Le Roy René /
Image caption Calissons are sold by leading French manufacturer Roy Rene

Angry French confectioners are preparing for battle over a sweet from Provence, after a Chinese company trademarked its name.

Calissons d'Aix are eye-shaped marzipan treats flavoured with melon, and firmly associated with France.

But Shanghai-based firm Ye Chunlin snapped up the rights under the noses of the Gallic manufacturers.

Now the French Union des Fabricants des Calissons (Union of Calisson makers) in Aix is fighting to block the decision.

Calissons have had protected status in France since 1991, so any brand making them there has to follow set methods.

Image caption Calissons d'Aix have been made and sold in Provence for centuries, and are considered a speciality of the region

But that only applies in France, meaning overseas sweet makers can pursue their own path.

French confectioners wanted global rights over the Calisson, and have spent well over a decade debating the "official" ingredients.

To stop foreign firms using the Calissons d'Aix name, they applied for an EU designation - the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

But Ye Chunlin filed its claim with the Chinese intellectual property agency, Sipo, before it came through.

The French sweet makers now hope to block the move via a counter-claim with Sipo.

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Historians quibble about the exact origin of the Calisson, but it is believed to have started out as a medieval almond cake.

French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol reportedly said of the recipe: "You need one-third almonds, one-third fruit confits, one-third sugar, and a quarter savoir faire."

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