Pastilles de Vichy, a traditional French lozenge

Pastilles de Vichy are white octagonal lozenges known for their digestive properties.

As their name suggests, the Pastilles de Vichy are produced in Vichy.

Vichy is a prestigious spa town located in the Allier department in Auvergne.

Pastilles de Vichy - Vintage Ad
Vintage Ad

The Romans developed it some 2000 years ago on the foothills of the volcanic region of Massif Central.

Vichy therefore boasts 14 hot and cold mineral water springs renown for their curative properties.

Archaeological excavations uncovered countless traces of occupation dating back to the prehistory.

These attest that our distant ancestors were obviously aware of these ‘healing waters’.

The most famous springs are Vichy-Célestins and Saint-Yorre.

They have been bottled since the 19th century.

Vichy spring waters contain 5 to 7 grams of mineral salt per liter.

90% is sodium carbonate.

The remainder consists of calcium, magnesium and trace elements.

These minerals are the key component to the production of Pastilles de Vichy.

Pastilles de Vichy, a traditional French lozenge

The chemist Jean-Pierre-Joseph d’Arcey, a member of the Academies of Science and Medicine, discovered the digestive properties of baking soda (sodium carbonate) in the early 19th century.

Pastilles de Vichy - An old 'pastillerie'
An old ‘pastillerie’

However, the pharmacist Pierre Batillat was the first to produce the Pastilles de Vichy in 1825.

These original pastilles were oval, molded and shaped by hand.

However, in 1856, François Bru, the director of the spa, decided to improve their shape and taste them in order to make them more appealing.

The Pastilles de Vichy therefore became octagonal, sweet and mint flavoured!

Shortly after Napoleon III sojourned in Vichy in order to treat his gout and digestion problems and Empress Eugenie fell in love with the pastilles!

No need to say that the small white octagonal lozenges became an instant hit!

Their success lasted!

For the next 100 years they were hand-produced from a soft dough cut with cookie pieces, then dried in an oven.

They became mass-produced in 1954, and obtained from dry granule shaped in automated tablet presses.

Pastilles de Vichy - Inside a 'pastillerie'
Inside a ‘pastillerie’

Several pastilles confectioneries or pastilleries merged in 1973 in order to found the Societé Nouvelle des Pastilles Vichy or SNPV.

The first sugar free Pastilles de Vichy appeared in 1990 under the name Vichy Forme.

Cadbury Schweppes acquired the SNPV in 2003 and renamed it Comptoir Européen de la Confiserie in 2004.

Kraft Foods bought Cadbury France in 2010; Kraft was renamed Mondelēz International in 2013.

However, the Pastilles de Vichy’s recipe and appearance have little changed.

Pastilles de Vichy today

They are still octagonal and white, and each weighs 2.5g.

They still contain mineral salts extracted from the local spring water.

However, they come in a wider range of flavours such lemon, orange and anise.

Pastilles de Vichy
Pastilles de Vichy

That said, the original mint flavour is still the most popular by far.

The Pastilles de Vichy sold in supermarkets are more ‘fancy type sweets’.

Their minerals content is lower than that of those sold in pharmacies (chemist shops) which have curative properties.

The current production of Pastilles de Vichy amounts to 1.500 tons per year.

They now belong to an American multinational confectionery, however, they are still 100% French.

They are indeed essentially produced with Vichy water, but also with sugar produced from the oldest sugar refinery in France (Sucrerie Bourbon founded in 1835 in Aulnat near Clermont-Ferrand) and with mint grown in Grasse in Provence.

Other interesting facts:

  • The Pastilles de Vichy are mostly sold in France where they are very popular because of their freshness produced from the association of minerals and mint.
  • They are bought by adults (not children) because of their digestive properties.

Department of Allier
Coordinates: Lat 46.131859 – Long 3.425488

Credits: Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons: Pastilles All other photos are courtesy of Jean Piludu et Roland

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